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OCTOBER 1950 

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"¥ SCIENCE FICTION 



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TIME QUARRY- A Suspense Novel By Clifford D. Simok 
CONTEST- STARTLING PRIZES - Introduced By WILLIE LEY 



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WHAT'S BETTER THAN MONEY? 



C Lots of things: Paid-up accident insurance for a hard- 
boiled pulp detective, for instance. ... A stereoscopic 
full-color crystal ball for a swami. ... A bathing suit with 
built-in curves for a flat-bottom non-dreamboat. 

C But for science fiction readers, such appealing plums 
lack ingenuity. Not so with the startling list we've pre- 
pared. For merely explaining a mystery (which no one 
has yet been able to explain satisfactorily) you can win 
the most exciting, the most extraordinary . . . 

C SCIENCE FICTION prizes ever offered in any contest! 

C We don't say this is the greatest science fiction con- 
test there ever was; we want you to say it. And very far 
from incidental — some reader, somewhere, may have the 
actual answer to the key question: 

What and Why Are 
Flying Saucers? 

C See Page 67 for Willy Ley's introduction to this 
baffling problem of our times . . . and Page 71 for the 
prizes. Remember, there is a $100 cash bonus for each 
of the winners of the first three prizes if their entries are 
accompanied by a susbcripton to GALAXY Science Fiction. 



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SCIENCE FICTION 



Editor-in-Chief 

VERA CERUTTI 

iditor. ..H. L. GOLD 

Art Director 

W. I. VAN DER POEL 



© 



Cover by David Stone 

Illustrating The Hunting 

Asteroid Seen* of 

Tim* Quarry 



GALAXY Science Fiction 
U published monthly by 
World Editions, Inc. Main ' 

Offices: 105 West 40th St., 
P York 18, N. Y. 25* 
iter copy. Subscriptions 
(12 copies) $2.50 per year 
In the United States, 
Canada, Mexico, South and , 
Central America and U. S. 

§ Obsessions. Elsewhere 
.25. Application for entry 
as second-class matter is 
pending at the Post Office, 
Brooklyn, N.Y. Copyright, 
1950, by World Editions, 
Inc. President: George A. 
Gogniat. Vice-President : 
. Marco Lombi. Secretary - 
and Treasurer: Anne Swe- 
reda. All rights, including 
translation, reserved. All 
material submitted must be 
accompanied by self-ad-. 
dre ssed stamped envelopes. 
The publisher assumes no 
jnsibility for unsolic- 
material. All stories 
ated -in this magazine 
are fiction, and any simil- 
arity between characters 
and actual persons is co- 
incidental. 

.173 ' 




October} 1950 



Vol. 1, No. 1 



CONTENTS 



BOOK-LENGTH SERIAL— Installment 1 

TIME QUARRY * 

by Clifford D. Simak 4 

NOVELETS 

THE STARS ARE THE STYX 

by Theodore Sturgeon 72 

CONTAGION 

by Katherine Maclean 114 

SHORT STORIES 

THIRD FROM THE SUN 

by Richard Matheson .61 

LATER THAN YOU THINK 

by Fritz Leiber 108 

THE LAST MARTIAN 

by Fredric Brown 145 

DARWINIAN POOL ROOM 

by Isaac Asimov 152 
FEATURES 

EDITOR'S PAGE 2 

FORECAST 107 

GALAXY'S FIVE-STAR SHELF 

byGroff Conklin 141 
CONTEST ARTICLE 

FLYING SAUCERS: Friend, Foe or Fantasy? 

by Willy Ley 67 

Next Issue At Your Newsstand First Week in October 

Printed in the U. S. A. Reg. U. S. Pat. Off. 



For Adults Only 



SCIENCE (fiction, everybody 
agrees, or seems to, has finally 
come of age. Hollywood, radio, 
book publishers, and the slick maga- 
zines are all, with the usual degraded 
exceptions, buying and treating 
science fiction intelligently. 

.GALAXY Science Fiction pro- 
poses to carry the maturity of this 
type of literature into the science 
fiction magazine field, where it is 
now, unfortunately, somewhat hard 
to find. It establishes a compound 
break with both the lurid and the 
stodgy traditions of s-f magazine 
publishing. From cover design to 
advertising selections, GALAXY 
Science Fiction intends to be a ma- 
ture magazine for mature readers 
. . . mature in reading; age alone is 
no assurance of maturity. 

The cover design we are using is 
proof of our break with the ama- 
teur and/or shoddy tradition, and the 
way it was selected is typical of our 
respect for our potential readers. 
We presented a number of experi- 
mental cover designs to groups of 
fans, authors, artists, and persons 
with no interest at all in science fic- 
tion, and asked which they preferred. 
Three out of four consulted chose 
bur present design . . . and ex- 
plained that they liked it, but 
doubted if it had commercial ap- 



peal. Three votes out of every four, 
on a wide-scale survey, is commer- 
cial enough to satisfy us. We never 
were convinced, in any case, of the 
actual commercial * appeal of naked 
maidens, prognathous youths in 
winter underwear of gold lame, and 
monsters that can exist only on the 
nutrients found in India ink and 
Bristol board. 

The cover, by David Stone, is the 
resolution of several personal con- 
flicts. Long a science fiction fan, 
Stone is also an excellent artist who 
was weary of tearing covers off mag- 
azines to avoid embarrassment. His 
cover, he resolved, would not have 
to be hidden from either parents or 
friends. Having suffered thus our- 
selves, we agreed, and no reader will 
be ashamed to carry GALAXY. 

If you will study our cover close- 
ly, preferably with a magnifying 
glass, you will find another reason 
for pride. Stone's fine painting has 
been reproduced by a completely 
new and revolutionary engraving 
process! It is a continuous tone 
method, developed by William 
Guth, one of the country's foremost 
experimenters in color reproduction. 
Like photography, this process ijses 
a granular surface rather than me- 
chanical dots, since no conventional 
screen is used at all. The Guth 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



process allows imperceptible blend- 
ing instead of the ordinary pattern 
or moire, which eliminates blurring 
through much more accurate regis- 
tration, and makes possible more 
faithful color reproduction than any 
other engraving process known. 
We have to state that the above is 
the only information we can give; 
the patent is still-pending. 

Life is experimenting with the 
method ... but GALAXY Science. 
Fiction is the first magazine of any 
kind to use it. 

A superb engraving process needs 
an equally superb cover stock. There- 
fore GALAXY Science Fiction is 
dressed in Champion Kromekote, an 
expensive and unusual coated paper. 
Kromekote was developed as a re- 
sult of the long search for an ideal 
high finish paper, one that would 
duplicate the intense luster of the 
glossy photograph. The Champion 
Paper & Fibre Company solved the 
problem; Kromekote has a 20 per 
cent higher index, of refraction than 
the costliest grade of enameled 
stock! It can also be soaked in water 
and still retain full color with prac- 
tically no loss, an important quality 
to readers who dislike having to 
wash after reading a magazine. 

Between William Guth's engrav- 
ing process and Kromekote's incred- 
ible finish, artist and reader are as- 
sured fine color reproduction. 

All this, of course, is merely a 
beautiful and dignified vehicle for 
science fiction itself. The novel, by 
Clifford D. Simak, is something that 



has been done far too seldom in s-f : 
a powerful story of suspense,, mys- 
tery, ideas . . . and human emotion; 
Theodore Sturgeon's novelet is su- 
perb Sturgeon, recommendation 
enough, we think; and the short 
stories and illustrations were all 
selected for maturity, intelligence, 
and professional quality. .Maintain- 
ing the standard of this first issue 
would not be easy even if we had 
the budget of a slick magazine, but 
our future issues promise to become 
even better. 

As stated in the introduction to 
our contest, the fundamental pur- 
pose is to gain readers, but we also 
have a scientific intent. Flying 
Saucers, whether real or not, are a 
significant phenomenon of our times. 
If real, they have a vital function of 
some sort; if fantasy, they are note- 
worthy for psychological reasons. 
We do not have the answer, nor 
does Willy Ley. We hope, as he 
does, that our readers do, or that 
they can offer explanations which 
will suggest lines of research. 

To conclude, we are not, running 
a letter department in this issue — 
not because we have none, but be- 
cause of their congratulatory and 
inspirational content. We would 
rather have a good fight than a bou- 
quet any day, much as we like the 
odor of roses, because criticism is 
more important to the development 
of an idea . . . and GALAXY Sci- 
ence Fiction is an idea and a goal. 
Your ideas can help us achieve that 
goal. —THE EDITOR 



FOR ADULTS ONLY 




One life should be enough to give for humanity... but humanity 
wanted Asher Sutton to keep making the sacrifice indefinitely ! 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 




THE mail came out of the twi- 
light when the greenish-yel- 
low of the sun's last glow 
still lingered in the west. He paused 
at the edge of the patio and called. 
"Mr. Adams, is that you?" 
The chair creaked as Christopher 
Adams shifted his weight, startled 
by the voice. Then he remembered. 



A new neighbor had moved in 
across the meadow a day or two ago. 
Jonathon had told him . . . and 
Jonathon knew all the gossip within 
a hundred miles. Human gossip as 
well as android and robot gossip. 

"Come on in," said Adams. "Glad 
you dropped around." 

He hoped his voice sounded as 



TIME QJARRY 



hearty and neighborly as he had 
tried to make it. For he wasn't glad. 
He was a little nettled, upset by this 
sudden shadow that came out of the 
twilight and walked across the patio. 

This is my hour, he thought an- 
grily. The one hour I give myself. 
The hour that I forget . . . forget 
the thousand problems that have to 
do with other star systems. Forget 
them and turn back to the green- 
blackness and the hush and the 
subtle sunset shadow-show that be- 
long to my own •planet. For here, 
on this patio, there are no mento- 
phone reports, no robot files, no 
galactic co-ordination conferences 
... no rjsychological intrigue, no 
alien reaction charts. Nothing com- 
plicated or - mysterious. 

With half his mind, he knew the 
stranger had come across the patio 
and was reaching out a hand for a 
chair to sit in; and with the other 
half, once again, he wondered about 
the blackened bodies lying on the 
river bank on- far-off Aldebaran XII, 
and the twisted machine that was 
wrapped around the tree. 

Three humans had died there . . . 
three humans and two androids, and 
androids were almost human, differ- 
ent only in that they were manufac- 
tured instead of born. And humans 
must not die by violence unless it 
be by the violence of another human. 
Even then it must be on the field of 
honor, with alll the formality and 
technicality of the code duello, or in 
the less polished affairs of revenge - 
or execution. 



For human life was sacrosanct. It 
had to be or there'd be no human 
life. Man was so pitifully outnum- 
bered. 

Violence or accident ? 

And accident was ridiculous. 

There were few accidents, almost 
none at all. The near-perfeotion of 
mechanical performance, the almost 
human intelligence and reactions of 
machines to any known danger, long 
ago had cut accidents to an almost 
non-existent figure. 

No modern machine would be 
crude enough to crash into a tree. A 
more subtle, less apparent danger, 
maybe. But never a tree. 

So it must be violence. 

And it could not be .human vio- 
lence, for human violence would 
have advertised the fact. Human 
violence had nothing to fear . . . 
there was no recourse to law, scarce- 
ly a moral code to which a human 
killer would be answerable. 

THREE humans dead, fifty light 
years distant, and it became a 
thing of great importance to a man 
sitting on his patio on Earth. A 
thing of prime importance, for no 
human must die by other hands 
than human without a terrible ven- 
geance. Human life must not be 
taken without a monstrous price any- 
where in the galaxy, or the human 
race would end forever, and the 
great galactic brotherhood of intelli- 
gence would plummet down into 
the darkness and the distance that 
had scattered it before. 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



Adams slumped lower in his 
chair, forcing himself to relax, 
furious at himself for thinking . . . 
for it was his rule that in this time 
of twilight he thought of nothing 
... or as close to nothing as his 
restless mind could manage. 

The stranger's voice seemed to 
come from far away and yet Adams 
knew he was sitting at his side. 

"Nice evening," the stranger said. 

Adams chuckled. "The evenings 
are always nice. The Weather boys 
• don't let it rain until later on, when 
everyone's asleep." 

In a thicket down the hill, a 
thrush struck up its evensong and 
the liquid notes ran like a quieting 
hand across a drowsing world. 
Along the creek a frog or two were 
trying out their throats. Far away, 
in some dim other-world, a whip- 
poor-will began his chugging ques- 
tion. Across the meadow and up the 
climbing hills, the lights came on 
in houses here and there. 

"This is the best part of the day," 
said Adams. 



H 



E DROPPED his hand into his 
pocket, brought out tobacco 
pouch and pipe. "Srnoke?" 

The stranger shook his head. "As 
a matter of fact, I am here on busi- 
ness." 

Adams' voice turned crisp. "See 
me in the morning, then. I don't do 
business after hours." 

The stranger said softly: "It's 
about Asher Sutton." 

Adams' body tensed and his fin- 



gers shook as he filled his pipe. He 
was glad that it was dark so the 
stranger could not see. 

"Sutton will be coming back," 
the stranger said. 

Adams shook his head. "No 
chance. He went out twenty years 
ago." 

"You haven't crossed him off?" 

"No," said Adams slowly. "He 
still is on the payroll, if that is 
what you mean." 

"Why?" asked the man. "Why do 
you keep him on?" 

Adams tamped the tobacco in the 
bowl, considering. "Sentiment, I 
guess. Faith in Asher Sutton. Ail- 
though the faith is running out." 

"Just five days from now," the 
stranger said, "Sutton will come 
back." He paused a moment, then 
added: "Early in the morning." 

"There's no way you could know 
a thing like that." 

"But I do. It's recorded fact." 

Adams snorted. "It hasn't hap- 
pened yet." • 

"In my time it has." 

Adams jerked upright in his chair. 
"In your time?" , 

"Yes," said the stranger quietly. 
"You see, Mr. Adams, I am your 
successor." 

"Look here, young man. •. . ." 

"Not young man. I am half again 
your age. I am getting old." 

"I have no successor," said Adams 
coldly. "There's been no talk of one. 
I'm good for another hundred years. 
Maybe more than that." 

"Yes," the stranger said, "for 



TIME QUARRY 



- 



more than a hundred years. For 
much more than that." 

Adams leaned back quietly in his 
chair. He put his pipe in his mouth 
and lit it with a hand that was sud- 
denly steady. 

"Let's take this easy," he said. 
"You say you are my successor . . . 
ithat you took over my job after I 
quit or died. That means you came 
out of the future. Not that I believe 
you for a moment, of course. But 
just for argument. . . ." 

"There. was a news item the other 
day," the stranger said. "About a 
man named Michaelson who claimed 
he went into the future." 

"I read that. One second! How 
could a man know he went one sec- 
ond into time? How could he meas- 
ure it and know? What difference 
would it make?" 

"None," the stranger agreed. 
"Not the first time. But the next 
time he will go into the future five 
seconds. Five seconds, Mr. Adams. 
Five tickings of the clock. The space 
of one short breath. There must be 
a starting point for all things." 

"Time travel?" 

The stranger nodded. 

"I don't believe it," Adams said. 
"In the last five thousand years we 
have conquered the gailaxy. . . ." 

"Conquer is not the right word, 
Mr. Adams." 

"Well, taken over, then. Moved 
in. However you wish it. And we 
have found strange things. Stranger 
things than we ever dreamed. But 
never time travel." He waved his 



hand at the stars. "In all that space 
out there, no one had time travel. 
No one.'? 

"You have it now," the stranger 
said. "Since two weeks ago. Mi- 
chaelson went into time, one second 
into time. A start. That is all that's 
needed." 

"All right," said Adams. "Let us 
say you are the man who in a hun- 
dred years or so will take my place. 
Let's pretend you traveled back in 
time. Then why come here?" 

"To tell you that Asher Sutton 
will return." 

"I would know it when he came," 
said Adams. "Why must I know 

"When he returns," the stranger 
said, "Sutton must be killed." 



II 



THE tiny, battered ship sank 
lower, slowly, like a floating 
feather, drifting down toward the 
field in the slant of morning sun. 
The bearded, ragged man in the 
pilot's chair sat tensed, not breath- 
ing. 

Tricky, said his brain. Hard and 
tricky to handle so much weight, to 
judge the distance and the speed . . . 
hard to make the tons of metal float 
down against the savage pull of 
gravity. Harder even than the lifting 
of it, when there had been no con- 
sideration but that it should rise and 
move out into space. 

For a moment the ship wavered 
and he fought it with every shred 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



• \ 



of will and mind . . . and then it 
floated once again, hovering just a 
few feet above the surface of the 
field. 

He let it down, gently, so that it 
scarcely bumped when it touched the 
ground. 

He sat rigid in the seat, slowly 
going limp, relaxing by inches, first 
one muscle, then another. Tired, he 
told himself. The toughest job I've 
ever done. Another few miles and 
I would have let the whole weight 
of the ship crash. 

Far down the field was a clump 
of buildings. A ground car had 
swung away from them and was rac- 
ing down the strip toward him. A 
breeze curled in through the shat- 
tered vision port and touched his 
face, reminding him. . . . 

Breathe, he told himself. You 
must be breathing when they come. 
You must be breathing and you must 
walk out and you must smile at 
them. There must be nothing they 
will notice. Right away, at least. 
The beard and" clothes will help 
some. They'll be so busy gaping at 
them that . they will miss a little 
thing. But not breathing. They might 
notiqe if you weren't breathing. 

Carefully, he pulled in a breath 
of air, felt the sting of it run along 
his nostrils and gush inside his 
throat, felt the fire of it *when it 
reached his lungs. 

Another breath and another one 
and the air had scent and life and a 
strange exhilaration. The blood 
throbbed in his throat and beat 



against his temples and he held his 
fingers to one wrist and fek it puls- 
ing there. 

Sickness came, a brief, stomach- 
retching sickness that he fought 
against, holding his body rigid, re- 
membering all the things that he 
mast do. The power of will, he told 
himself, the power of mind . . . 
the power that no man uses to its 
full capacity. The will to tell a body 
the things that it must do, the power 
to start an engine turning after years 
of doing nothing. 

One breath and then another. And , 
the heart is beating now, steadier, 
steadier. 

Be quiet, stomach. 

Get going, liver. 

Keep pumping, heart. 

It isn't as if you were old and. 
rusted, for you never were. The 
other system took care that you were 
kept in shape, that you were ready 
at an instant's notice to be as you 
were. 

But the switch-over was a shock, i 
He had known that it would be. 
He had dreaded its coming, for he 
had known what it would mean: the 
agony of a new kind of life and 
metabolism. 

IN HIS mind he held a blueprint 
of his body and all its working 
parts ... a shifting, wobbly picture 
that shivered and blurred and ran 
color into color. But it steadied un- ; 
der the hardening of his mind, the ; 
driving of his will, and finally the 
blueprint was still and sharp and 



TIME QUARRY 



bright and he knew that the worst 
was over. 

He clung to the ship's controls 
with hands clenched so fiercely, they 
almost dented metal, and perspira- 
tion poured down his body, and he 
was limp and weak. Nerves grew 
quiet and the blood pumped on, and 
he knew that he was breathing with- 
out even thinking of it. 

For a moment longer he sat quiet- 
ly in the seat, relaxing. The breeze 
came in the shattered port and 
brushed against his cheek. The 
ground car was coming very close. 

"Johnny," he whispered, "we are 
home. We made it. This is my home, 
Johnny. The place I talked about." 

But there was no answer, just a 
stir of comfort deep inside his brain, 
a strange, nestling comfort such as 
one may know when one is eight 
years old and snuggles into bed. 

"Johnny!" he cried. 

And he felt the stir again ... a 
self-assuring stir like the feel of a 
dog's muzzle against a hand. 

Someone was beating at the ship's 
door, beating with fists and crying 
out. 

"All right," said Asher Sutton. 
"I'm coming. I'll be right along." 

fie reached down and lifted the 
attache case from beside the seat, 
tucked . it underneath his arm. He 
went to the lock and twirled it open 
and stepped out on the ground. 

There was only one man. 

"Hello," said Asher Sutton. 

"Welcome to Earth, sir," said the 
man, and the "sir" struck a chord of 



memory. Sutton's eyes went to the 
man's forehead and he saw the tat- 
tooing of the serial number, the 
only indication that this was a syn- 
thetic human being, an android. 

Sutton had forgotten about and- 
roids. Perhaps a lot of other things 
as we'll. Little habit patterns that had 
sloughed away with the span of 
twenty years. 

HE SAW the android staring at 
him, at the naked knee show- 
ing through the worn cloth, at the 
lack of shoes. 

"Where I've been," said Sutton, 
sharply, "you couldn't buy a new 
suit every day." 

"No, sir," said the android. 

"And the beard," said Sutton, "is 
because I had nothing to shave 
with." 

"I've seen beards before," the 
android told him. 

Sutton stood quietly and stared at 
the world before him ... at the 
upthrust of towers shining in the 
morning sun, at the green of park 
and meadow, at the darker green of 
trees and the blue and scarlet 
splashes of flower gardens on slop- 
ing terraces. 

He took a deep breath and felt 
the air flooding in his lungs, seeking 
out all the distant cells {hat had been 
starved so long. And it was coming 
back to him, coming back again . . . 
the remembrance of life on Earth, 
of early morning sun and flaming 
sunsets, of deep blue sky and dew 
upon the grass, the swift blur of 



" 



10 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



... 



-• ■ 



■ 



human talk and the lilt of human 
music. 

"The car is- waiting, sir," the 
android said. "I will take you to a 
human." 

"I'd rather walk/' said Sutton. 

THE android shook his head. 
"The human is waiting and he 
is most impatient." 

"Oh, all right," said Sutton. 

The seat was soft and he sank 
into it gratefully, cradling the at- 
tache case carefully in his lap. He 
stared out of the window, fascin- 
ated by the green of Earth. The 
green fields of Earth, he said. Or 
was it the green vales? No matter 
now. It was a song written long 
ago, in the time when there had 
been fields on Earth, instead of 
parks, when Man had turned the 
soil for more important things than 
flower beds. In the day, thousands 
of years before, When Man had just 
begun to feel the stir of space within 
his soul. Long years before Earth 
had become the capital, and the cen- 
ter of galactic empire. 

A great starship was taking off 
at the far end of the field, sliding 
down the ice-smooth plastic skid- 
way with the red-hot flare of booster 
jets frothing in its tubes. Its nose 
slammed into the upward curve of 
the take-off ramp and it was away, 
a rumbling streak of silver that shot 
into the blue. For a moment it flick- 
ered a golden red in the morning 
sunlight, and then was gone, van- 
, ished. 



SUTTON brought his gaze back 
to Earth again, sat soaking in 
the sight of it as a man soaks in 
the first strong sun of spring after 
months of winter. 

Far to the north towered the twin 
spires of the Justice Bureau, Alien 
Branch. And to the east the pile of 
gleaming plastics and glass that was 
the University of North America. 
And other buildings that he had 
forgotten . . . buildings for which 
he found he had no name, miles 
apart, with parks and homesites in 
between. The homes were masked 
by trees and shrubbery— none sat in 
barren loneliness — and, through the 
green of the curving hills, Sutton 
caught the glints of color that were 
roofs and walls. 

The car slid to a stop before the 
Administration Building and the 
android opened the door. "This 
way, sir." 

Only a few chairs in the lobby 
were occupied and most of those by 
humans. Humans or androids, 
thought Sutton, you can't tell the 
difference until you see their fore- 
heads. 

The sign upon the forehead, the 
brand of manufacture. The telltale 
mark that said: "This man is not a 
human, although he looks like one." 

These are the ones who will listen 
to me. These are the ones who will 
pay attention. These are the ones 
who will save me against any future 
enmity that Man may raise against 
me. 

For they are worse than the dis- 



TIME QUARRY 



11 



inherited. They are not the has- 
beens; they x are the never- weres. 
They are not born of woman, but of 
the laboratory. Their, mother is a 
bin of chemicals and their father 
the ingenuity and technology of the 
creator race. 

Android: An artificial human. A 
human made in the laboratory out 
•of Man's own knowledge of chemi- 
cals and atomic and molecular struc- 
ture and the strange reaction that is 
known as life. 

Human in all but two respects — 
the mark upon the forehead and the 
ability to reproduce biologically. 

Artificial humans to help the real 
humans, the biological humans, to 
carry the load of galactic empire, 
to make the thin line of humanity 
stronger, thicker. But kept in their 
place. Oh, yes, most definitely kept 
in their rightful place by psycho- 
conditioning and savagely enforced 
rules and laws. 

• 

THE corridor was empty. Sutton, 
his bare feet slapping on the 
floor, followed the android. 

The door before which they 
stopped said: 

THOMAS H. DAVIS 

(Human) 

Operations Chief 

"In there," the android said. 

Sutton walked in and the man 
behind the desk looked up. 

"I'm a human," Sutton told him. 
"I may not look it, but I am." 



The man jerked his thumb toward 
a chair. "Sit down." 

Sutton sat. 

"Why didn't you answer our sig- 
nals?" Davis asked. 

"My set was broken." 

"Your ship has no identity." 

"The rains washed it off," said 
Sutton, "and I had no paint." 

"Rain doesn't wash off paint." 

"Not Earth rain. Where I was, 
it does." 

"Your motors?" asked Davis. 
"We could pick up nothing from 
them." 

"They weren't working." 

Davis' Adam's apple bobbed up 
and down. "Weren't working? How 
did you navigate?" 

"With energy," said Sutton. 

"Energy. . . ." 

Sutton stared at him icily. "Any- 
thing else you want to know?". 

Davis was confused. The answers 
were all wrong. He fiddled with a 
pencil. "Just the usual things, I 
guess." He drew a pad of forms be- 
fore him. 

"Name?" 

"Asher Sutton." 

"Origin of fli — Say, wait a min- 
ute! Asher Sutton?" 

"That's right." 

Davis flung the pencil on the 
desk, pushed away the pad. "Why 
didn't you tell me that first?"' 

"I didn't have a chance." 

Davis was flustered. "If I had 
known. . . ." 

"It's the beard," said Sutton. 

"My father talked about you 



12 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



- 









often. Jim Davis. Maybe you remem- 
ber him.". 

Sutton shook his head. 

"Great friend of your father's. 
That is . . . they more or less knew 
one another." y 

"How is my father?" asked Sut- 
ton. 

"Great," said Davis enthusiastic- 
ally. "Getting along in years, but v 
standing up. . . ." 

"My father and mother," Sutton 
told him coldly, "died forty years 
ago. In the Argus pandemic." He 
heaved himself to his feet, faced 
Davis squarely. "If you're through, 
I'd like to go to my hotel. They'll 
find some room for me." 

"Certainly, Mr. Sutton, certainly. 
Which hotel?" 

"The Orion Arms." 

Davis reached into a drawer, took 
out a directory, flipped the pages, 
ran a shaking ringer down a column. 

"Cherry 26-3489," he said. "The 
teleport is over there." 

He pointed to a booth set flush 
into the wall, where a dematerial- 
izer could transport matter instantly . 
to any other teleport booth any- 
where on Earth. 

"Thanks," said Sutton. 

"About your father, Mr. Sut- 
ton, i . ." 

"I know," said Sutton. "I'm glad 
you tipped me off." 

He swung around and walked to 
the teleport. Before he closed the 
door, he looked back. 

Davis was on the visaphone, talk- 
ing rapidly. 



Ill 



TWENTY, years had not changed 
the Orion Arms. 

To Sutton, stepping out of the 
teleport, it looked the same as the 
day he had walked away. A little 
shabbier, but it was home, the quiet 
whisper of hushed activity, the 
dowdy furnishings, the finger-to-the 
lip, tiptoe atmosphere, the stiff re- 
spectability that he had remembered 
and dreamed about in the long years 
of alienness. 

The life mural along the wall was 
the same as ever. A little faded now, 
but the same goatish Pan still 
chased, after twenty years, the same 
terror-stricken maiden across the 
self-same hills and dales. And the 
same rabbit hopped from behind a 
bush and watched the chase with all 
his customary boredom, chewing his 
everlasting cud of clover. 

The self-adjusting furniture, 
bought before the management had 
considered throwing the hostelry 
open to the unhuman trade, had 
been out-of-date twenty years ago. 
But it still was there. It had been 
repainted, in soft, genteel pastels, 
its self -adjustment features still con- 
fined to human forms. 

The spongy floor covering had 
lost some of its sponginess, and the 
Cetian cactus must have died at last, 
for a pot of frankly Terrestial geran- 
iums now occupied its place. 

The clerk snapped off the visa- 
phone and turned back to the room. 

"Good morning, Mr. Sutton," he 



TIME QUARRY 



13 



said, in his cultured android voice. 
Then he added, almost as an after- 
thought: "We've been wondering 
when you would show up." 

"Twenty years," said Sutton drily, 
"is a long time to wonder." 

"We've kept your old .suite for 
you. We knew you would want it. 
Mary has kept it cleaned and ready 
for you ever since you left." 

"That was nice of you, Ferdin- 
and." 

"You've hardly changed at ail. 
Just the beard. I knew you the sec- 
ond that I turned and saw you." 

'"The beard and clothes," said 
Sutton. "The clothes are pretty 
bad." 

"I don't suppose you have lug- 
gage, Mr. Sutton." 

"No. Could I get something to 
eat?" 

"Breakfast, perhaps? We still are 
serving breakfast. You always liked 
scrambled eggs for breakfast." 

"That sounds all right," said Sut- 
ton. "Send them up with a change 
of clothes." 

He turned slowly *from the desk 
and walked to the elevator. He was 
about to close the door when a voice 
called: "Just a moment, please." 

The girl was running across the 
lobby. Rangy and copper-haired, she 
slid into the lift, pressed her back 
against the wall. 

"Thanks very much," she said. 
"Thanks so much for waiting." 

Her skin, Sutton saw, was mag- 
nolia-white and her eyes were gran- 
ite-colored with shadows deep 



within them. He closed the door 
softly. "I was glad to wait," he said. 
Her lips twitched just a little, and 
he added, "I don't like shoes. They 
cramp my feet." 

He pressed the button savagely 
and the lift sprang upward. The 
lights ticked off the floors. Sutton 
stopped the cage. "This is my 
floor," he said. 

HE HAD the door open and was 
halfway out, when she spoke to 
him. "Mister." 

"Yes, what is it?" 

"I didn't mean to laugh. I really- 
truly didn't." 

"You had a right to laugh," said 
Sutton, and closed the door behind 
him. He stood for a moment, fight- 
ing down a sudden tenseness that 
seized him like a mighty fist. 

Careful, he told himself, take it 
easy, boy. You are home at last. This 
is the place you dreamed of. Just a 
few doors down and you are finally 
home. You will reach out and turn 
the knob and push open the door 
and it will be there, just as you re- 
membered it. The favorite chair, the 
life-paintings on the wall, the little 
fountain with the mermaids from 
Venus, and the windows where you 
can sit and fill your eyes with Earth. 

But you can't get emotional. You 
can't go soft and scared. 

For that chap back at the space- 
port lied. And hotels don't keep 
rooms waiting for all of twenty 
years. 

There is something wrong. I don't 



14 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



know what, but something. Some- 
thing terribly wrong. 

He took a slow step ... and then 
another, fighting down the tension, 
swallowing the dryness of excitement 
welling in his throat. 

One of the paintings, he remem- 
bered, was a forest brook, with birds 
flitting in the trees. And at the most 
unexpected times one of the birds 
would sing, usually with the dawn 
or the going of the sun. And the 
water babbled with a happy song 
that held one listening. 

He knew that he was running and 
he didn't try to stop. His fingers 
curled around the door knob and 
turned it. 

The room was there . . . the 
favorite chair, , the babble of the 
brook, the splashing of the mer- 
maids. ... 

He caught the whiff of danger 
as he stepped across the threshold 
and he tried to turn and run, but he 
was too late. He felt his body 
crumpling forward to crash toward 
the floor. 

"Johnny!" he cried and the cry 
bubbled in his throat. "Johnny!" 

Inside his brain a voice whispered 
back: "It's all right, Ash. We're still 
joined." 

Then darkness came. 



IV 



THERE was someone in the room 
and Sutton kept- his eyelids 
down, kept his breathing slow. 
Someone in the room was pacing 



quietly, stopping now before the 
window to look out, moving over to 
the mantlepiece to stare at the paint- 
ing of the forest brook. And in the 
stillness of the room, Sutton heard 
the laughing babble of the painted 
stream against the splashing of the 
fountain, heard the faint bird notes 
that came from the painted trees, 
imagined that even from the dis- 
tance that lie lay he could smell the 
forest mold and the cool, wet per- 
fume of the moss that grew along 
the stream.-- 

The person in the room crossed 
back again and sat down in a chair. 
He whistled a tune, almost inaud- 
ibly. A funny, little lilting tune that 
Sutton had not heard before. 

Someone gave me a going over, 
Sutton told himself. Knocked me 
out fast, with gas or powder, then 
gave me an overhauling. I seem to 
remember some of it . . . hazy and 
far away. Lights that glowed and a 
probing at my brain. And I might 
have fought against it, but I knew 
it was no use. And, besides, they're 
welcome to anything they found. 
Yes, they're welcome to anything 
they pried out of my mind. But 
they've found all they're going to 
find and they have gone away. They 
left someone to watch me and he 
still, is in the room, waiting for me 
to wake up, probably. 

Sutton stirred on the bed and 
opened his eyes, kept them glazed 
and only partly focused. 

The man rose from the chair and 
Sutton saw that- he was dressed in 



TIME QUARRY 



15 



■c 



• 



white. He crossed the room and 
leaned above the bed. 

"All right now?" he asked. 

Sutton raised a hand and passed 
it, bewildered, across his face. "Yes," 
I guess I am." 

"You passed out," the man said. 

"Something I forgot to eat." 

THE man shook his head. "The 
trip, probably. It must have 
been a tough one." 

"Yes," said Sutton. "Tough." 

Go ahead, he thought. Go ahead 
and ask some more. Those are your 
instructions. Catch me while I'm 
groggy, pump me like a well. Go 
ahead and ask the questions and 
earn your lousy money. 

But he was wrong. The man 
straightened up. "I think you'll be 
all right," he said. "If you aren't, 
call me. My card is ori the mantle." 

"Thanks, doctor," said Sutton. 

He. watched him walk across the 
room, waited until he heard the door 
click, then sat up in bed. His cloth- 
ing lay in a pile in the center of the 
floor. His case? Yes, there it was, 
lying on a chair. Ransacked, no 
doubt, probably photostated. Spy 
rays, too, more than likely. All over 
the room. Ears listening and eyes 
watching. 

But who? he asked himself. No 
one knew he was returning. No one 
could have known. Not even Adams. 
There was no way to know. There 
had been no way that he could let 
them know. 

Funny. Funny the way Davis at 



the spaceport had recognized his 
name and told a lie to cover up. 
Funny the way Ferdinand pretended 
his suite had been kept for him for 
all these twenty years. Funny, too, 
how Ferdinand had turned around 
and spoken, as if twenty years were 
nothing. 

Organized, said Sutton. Clicking 
like a relay system. Set and waiting. 
But why should anyone be waiting? 
No one knew when he'd be coming 
back. Or if he would come at all. 

And even if someone did know, 
why go to all the trouble ? 

For they could not know, he 
thought ... they could not know 
the thing I have, they could not even 
guess. Even if they did know I was 
coming back, incredible as it might 
be that they should know, even that 
would be more credible by a million 
times than that they should know 
the real reason for my coming. 

And knowing, ,he said, they would 
not believe. 

His eyes found the attache case 
lying on the chair, and Stared at it. 

And knowing, he said again, they 
would not believe. 

When they look the ship over, of 
course,' they will do some wonder- 
ing. Then there might be some ex- 
cuse for the thing that happened. 
But they didn't have time to look 
at the ship. They didn't wait a min- 
ute. They were laying for me and 
they gave me the works from the 
second that I landed. 

Davis shoved me into a teleport 
and grabbed his phone like mad. 



16 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



- 



And Ferdinand knew that I was on 
I the way, he knew .he'd see me when 
he turned around. And the girl — 
the girl with the granite eyes ? 

Sutton got up and stretched. A 
bath and shave, first of all, he told 
himself. And then some clothes and 
breakfast. A visor call or two. 

Don't act as if you've got the 
wind up, he warned himself. Act 
naturally. Talk to yourself. Pinch 
out a blackhead. Scratch your back 
against a door casing. Act as if you 
think you are alone. 

But be careful. 

There is someone watching. 



SUTTON was finishing breakfast 
when the android came. 

"My name is Herkimer," the 
android told him, "and I belong to 
Mr. Geoffrey Benton." 

"Mr. Benton sent you here?" 

"Yes. He sends a challenge." 

"A challenge?" 

"Yes. You know, a duel." 

"But I am unarmed." 

"You cannot be unarmed," said 
Herkimer. 

"I never fought a duel in all my 
life," said Sutton. "I don't intend to 
now." 

"You are vulnerable." 

"What do you mean, vulnerable? 
If I go unarmed. . . ." 

"But you cannot go unarmed. The 
code was changed just a year or two 
ago. No man younger than a hun- 
, dred years can go unarmed." 



"But if one does?" 

"Why, then," said Herkimer, 
"anyone who wants to can pot him 
like a rabbit." 

"You are sure of this?" 

Herkimer dug into his pocket, 
brought out a tiny book. He wet 
his finger and fumbled at the pages. 
"It's right here." 

"Never mind," said Sutton. "I 
will take your word." 

"You accept the challenge, then?" 

Sutton grimaced. "I suppose I 
have to. Mr. Benton will wait, I 
presume, until I buy a gun." 

"No need of that," Herkimer told 
him brightly. "I brought one along. 
Mr. Benton always does that. Just 
a courtesy, you know. In case some- 
one hasn't got one." 

He reached into his pocket and 
held out the weapon. Sutton took it 
and laid it on the table. "Awkward 
looking thing," he said. 

Herkimer stiffened. "It's tradi- 
tional. The finest weapon made. 
Shoots a .45 caliber slug. Hand- 
loaded ammunition. Sights are tested 
in for fifty feet." 

"You pull this?" asked Sutton, 
pointing. 

Herkimer nodded. "It is called a 
trigger. And you don't pull it. You 
squeeze it." 

"Just why does Mr. Benton chal- 
lenge me?" asked Sutton. "I don't 
even know the man." 

"You are famous," said Herki- 
mer. 

"Not that I have heard of." 

"You are an investigator," Herki- 



TIME QUARRY 



17 



» • 



mer pointed out. "You have just 
come back from a long and perilous 
mission. You're carrying a myster- 
ious attache case. And there are re- 
porters waiting in the lobby to in- 
terview you." 

' Sutton nodded. "I see. When Ben- 
ton kills someone, he likes him to 
be famous." 
' "Of course. More publicity." 

"But I don't know your Mr. Ben- 
ton. How will I know who I'm 
supposed to shoot at?" 1 

"I'll show you/* said Herkimer, 
"on the televisor." He stepped to 
the desk, dialed a number and 
stepped back. "That's him." 

In the screen a man was sitting 
before a chess table. The pieces were 
in mid-game. Across the board stood 
a beautifully machined jrobotic. The 
man reached out a hand, thought- 
fully played his knight. The robotic 
clicked and chuckled. It moved a 
pawn. Benton's shoulders hunched 
forward and he bent above the 
board. One hand came around and 
scratched the back of his neck. 

"Oscar's got him worried," said 
Herkimer. "He always has him wor- 
ried. Mr. Benton hasn't won a single 
game in the last ten years." 

"Why does he keep on playing?" 

"Stubborn," said Herkimer. "But 
Oscar's stubborn, too." He made a 
motion with his hand./ "Machines 
can be so much more stubborn than 
humans. Its the way they're built." 

"But Benton must have known, 
when he had Oscar fabricated, that 
Oscar would beat him," Sutton 



pointed out. "A human simply can't 
beat a robotic expert." 

"Mr. Benton knew that," said 
Herkimer, "but he didn't believe it. 
He wanted to prove otherwise." 
„ "Egomaniac," said Sutton. 

Herkimer stared at him calmly. 
"I believe that you are right, sir. 
I've sometimes thought the same 
myself." 

SUTTON brought his gaze back to 
Benton, who was still hunched 
above the board, the knuckles of one . 
hand thrust hard against his mouth. 
The veined face was scrubbed and 
pink and chubby and the brooding 
eyes,, thoughtful as they were, still 
held a fat twinkle of culture and 
good fellowship. 

"You'll know him now?" asked 
Herkimer. 

Sutton nodded. "Yes, I think I 
can pick him out. He doesn't look 
too dangerous." 

"He's killed sixteen men," Herki- 
mer said stiffly. "He plans to lay 
away his guns when he makes it 
twenty-five." He looked straight at 
Sutton and said: "You're the seven- 
teenth." 

"I'll try to make it easy for him." 

"How would you wish it, sir?" 
asked Herkimer. "Formal or infor- 
mal?" 

"Let's make it catch-as-catch-can." 

Herkimer was disapproving. 
"There are certain conventions. . . ." 

"You can tell Mr. Benton," said 
Sutton, "that I don't plan to ambush 
him." 



18 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



Herkimer picked up his cap, put 
it on his head. "The best of luck, 
sir." 

"Why, thank you, Herkimer," 
said Sutton. 

THE door closed and Sutton was 
alone. He turned back to the 
screen. Benton played to double up 
his rooks. Oscar chuckled at him, 
slid a bishop three squares along the 
board and put Benton's king in 
check. 

Sutton snapped the visor off. 

He scraped a hand across his now- 
shaved chin. 

Coincidence or plan? 

One of the mermaids had climbed 
to the edge of the fountain and bal- 
anced her three-inch self precarious- 
ly. She whistled at Sutton. He turned 
at the sound and she dived into the 
pool, swam in circles, mocking him 
with obscene gestures. 

Sutton leaned forward, reached 
into the visor rack, brought out the 
INF- J AT directory, flipped the 
pages swiftly. 

INFORMATION— Terrestrial 

Culinary * 

Culture 

Customs 

That would be it. Customs. 

He found DUELING, noted the 
number and put back the book. He 
reset the dial and snapped the tum- 
bler for direct communication. 

A robot's streamlined, metallic 
face filled the plate. "At your serv- 
ice, sir," it said. 



"I have been challenged to a 
duel," said Sutton. 

The robot waited for the question. 

"I don't want to fight a duel," 
said Sutton. "Is there any way, leg- 
ally, for me to back out? I'd like 
to do it gracefully, too, but I won't 
insist on that." 

"There is no way," the robot said. 

"No way at all?" 

"You are under one hundred?" 
the robot asked. 

"Yes." 

"You are sound of mind and 
body?" 

"I think so." 

"You are or you aren't. Make up 
your mind." 

"I am," said Sutton. 

"You do not belong to any bona 
fide religion that prohibits killing?" 

"I presume I could classify my- 
self as a Christian," said Sutton. 
"Isn't there a Commandment against 
killing?" 

The robot shook his head. "It 
doesn't count." 

"It's clear and specific," Sutton 
argued. "It says one should not kill." 

"It does," the robot told him. 
"But it has been discredited. You 
humans never obeyed it. You either 
obey a law or you forfeit it." 

"I guess I'm sunk then," said Sut- 
ton. 

"According to the revision of the 
year .7990," said the robot, "arrived 
at by convention, any human under 
the age of one hundred, of male sex, 
sound in mind and body, unhamp- 
ered by religious bonds or belief, 



TIME QUARRY 



If 



which are subject to a court of in- 
quiry, must fight a duel whenever 
challenged." 

"I see/' 

"The history of dueling," said 
the robot, "is very interesting." 

"It's barbaric," said Sutton. 

"Perhaps so. But you humans are 
still barbaric in many , other ways as 
.well." 

"You're impertinent." 

"I'm sick and tired," the robot 
said. "Sick and tired of the smug- 
ness of you humans. You say you've 
outlawed war and you haven't, 
really. You've just fixed it so no one 
dares to fight you. You say you have 
abolished crime and you have, ex- 
cept) for human crime. And a lot of 
the crime you have abolished isn't 
crime at' all, except by human stand- 
ards." \ 

"You're taking a ' long chance, 
friend," warned Sutton, "talking the 
way you are." 

"You can pull the plug on me," 
the robot told him, "any time you 
want to. Life isn't worth it, the kind 
of job I have." 

HE SAW the look on Sutton's 
face and hurried on. 
"Try to see it this way, sir. 
Through all his history, Man has 
been a killer. He was smart and 
brutal, even from the first. He was 
a puny thing, but he found how to 
use a club and rocks, and when the 
rocks weren't sharp enough, he 
chipped them so they were. There 
were things, at first, he should not 



by rights have killed. They should 
have killed him. But he was smart 
and he had the club and flints and 
he killed the mammoth and the 
sabertooth and other things he could 
not have faced bare-handed. So he 
won the Earth from the animals. He 
wiped them out, except the ones he 
allowed to live for the service that 
they gave him. And even as he 
fought with the animals, he fought 
with others of his kind. After the 
animals were gone, he kept on fight- 
ing . . . man against man, nation 
against nation." 

"But that is past," said Sutton. 
"There hasn't been a war for more 
than a thousand years. Humans have 
no need of fighting now." 

"That is just the point," the robot 
insisted. "There is no more need of 
fighting, no more need of killing. 
Oh, once in a while, perhaps, on 
some far-off planet, where a human 
must kill to protect his\life or to up- 
hold human dignity and power. But, 
by and large, there is no need of 
killing. 

"And yet you kill. You must kill. 
The old brutality is in you. You are 
drunk with power and killing is a 
sign of power. It has become a habit 
with you ... a thing you've carried 
from the caves. There's nothing left 
to kill but one another, so you kill 
one another and you call it dueling. 
You know it's wrong, and you're 
hypocritical about it. You've set up 
a fine system of semantics to make 
it sound respectable and brave and 
noble. You call it traditional and 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



- 



chivalric . . . and even if you don't 
call it that in so many words, that 
is what you think. You cloak it with 
the trappings of your vicious past, 
you dress it up with words, and the 
words are only tinsel." 

"Look," said Sutton, "I don't 
want to fight this duel. I don't think 
its. . . . 

There was vindictive glee in the 
robot's voice. "But you've got to 
fight it. There's no way to back out. 
Maybe you would like some point- 
ers. I have all sorts of tricks. ..." 

"I thought you didn't approve of 
dueling." ' 

s "I don't," the robot said. "But 
it's my job. I'm stuck with it. I try 
to do it well. I can tell you the per- 
sonal history of every man who ever 
fought a duel. I can talk for hours 
on the advantages of rapiers over 
pistols. Or if you'd rather I argued 
for pistols, I can do that, too. I can 
tell you about the old American 
West gun slicks and the Chicago 
gangsters and the handkerchief and 
dagger duels and. ..." 

"No, thanks," said Sutton. 

"You aren't interested?" 

"I haven't got the time." 

"But, sir," the robot pleaded, "I 
don't get a chance too often. I don't 
get many calls. Just an hour or 
so. . . . 

"No," said Sutton firmly. 

"All right, then. Maybe you'd tell 
me who has challenged you." 

"Benton. Geoffrey Benton." 

The robot whistled. 

"Is he that good?" asked Sutton. 



"All of it," the robot said. 

Sutton shut the visor off. 

He sat quietly in his chair, staring 
at the gun. Slowly he reached out a 
hand and picked it up. The butt 
fitted snugly in his hand. His finger 
curled around the trigger. He lifted 
it and sighted at the door knob. 

It was easy to handle. Almost like 
it was a part of him. There was a 
feel of power within it ... of power 
and mastery. As if he suddenly were 
stronger and greater . , . and more 
dangerous. 

He sighed and laid it down. The 
robot had been right. 

He reached out to the visor, 
pushed the signal for the lobby 
desk. Ferdinand's face came in. 

"Anyone waiting down there for 
me, Ferdinand?" 

"Not a soul," said Ferdinand. 

"Anyone asked for me?" 

"No one, Mr. Sutton." 

"No reporters? No photogra- 
phers?" 

"No, Mr. Sutton. Were you ex- 
pecting them?" 

Sutton didn't answer. He cut off, 
feeling very silly. 



VI 



MAN was, spread thin through- 
out the galaxy. A lone man 
here, a handful there. Slim creatures 
of bone and brain and muscle to 
hold a galaxy in check. Slight shoul- 
ders to hold up the cloak of human 
greatness spread across the light 
years. 



TIME QUARRY 



21 



For Man had flown too fast, had 
driven far beyond his physical ca- 
pacity. Not by strength did he hold 
his starry outposts, but by something 
else ... by depth of human charac- 
ter, by his colossal conceit, by his 
ferocious conviction that Man was 
the greatest living thing the galaxy 
had spawned. All this in spite of 
many evidences that he was not . . . 
evidence that he cast aside, scornful 
of any greatness that was not ruth- 
less and aggressive. 

Too thin, Christopher Adams^ told 
himself. Too thin and stretched too 
far. One man backed by a dozen 
androids and a hundred robots could 
hold a solar system. Could hold it 
until there were more men or until 
something cracked. 

In time there' d be more men, if 
the birth rate increased. But it would 
be many centuries before the line 
could grow much thicker, for Man 
only held the keypoints . . . one 
planet in an entire system, and not 
in every system. Man had leap- 
frogged since there weren't men 
enough, had set up strategic spheres 
of influence, had bypassed all but 
the richest, most influential sys- 
tems. 

THERE was room to spread, room 
for a million years. If there 
were any humans left by then. 

If the life on those other planets 
let the humans live, if there never 
came a day when they would be 
willing to pay the terrible price of 
wiping out mankind. 



The price would be high, said 
Adams, talking to himself, but it 
could be done. Just a few hours' 
job. Humans in the morning, no 
humans left by night. What if a 
thousand others died for every hu- 
man death ... or ten thousand, or 
a hundred thousand? Under certain 
circumstances, such a price might 
be cheap. 

There were islands of resistance 
even now where one walked care- 
fully ... or even walked around. 
Like 61 Cygni, for example. 

If took judgment . . . and some 
tolerance ... and a great measure 
of latent brutality, but, most of all, 
conceit, the absolute, unshakable 
conviction that Man was sacrosanct, 
that he could not be touched, that he 
could die only individually. 

But five had died, three humans 
and two androids, beside a river that 
flowed on Aldebaran XII, just a 
few short miles from Andrelon, the 
planetary capital. 

They had died of violence, of 
that there was no question. 

Adams' eyes sought out the para- 
graph of Thome's latest report: 

Force had been applied from the 
outside. We found a hole burned 
through the atomic shielding of the 
engine. The force must have been 
controlled or it would have resulted 
in absolute destruction. The auto- 
matics got in their work and headed 
off the blast, but the machine went 
out of control and smashed into the 
tree. The area was saturated with 
intensive radiation. 



22 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



Good man, Thome, thought 
Adams. He won't let a single thing 
be missed. He had those robots in 
there before the place was safe for 
humans. 

But there wasn't much to find . . . 
not much that gave an answer. Just 
a batch of question mirks. 

Five had died, and when that was 
said, that was the end of fact. For 
they were burned and battered and 
there were no features left, no fin- 
gerprints or eyeprints to match 
against the records. 

A few feet away from the strewn 
blackness of the bodies, the machine 
had "smashed into a tree. A machine 
that, like the men, was without a 
record. A machine without a counter- 
part in the known galaxy and, so 
far at least, a machine without a 
purpose. 

Thome would give it the works. 
He would set it up in solidographs, 
down to the last shattered piece of 
glass and plastic. He would have it 
analyzed and diagramed and the 
robots would put it in scanners that 
would peel it and record it molecule 
by molecule. 

And they might find something. 
Just possibly they might. 

Adams shoved the report to one 
side and leaned back in his chair. 
Idly, he spelled out his name let- 
tered across the office door, reading 
backward slowly and with exagger- 
ated care. As if he'd never seen the 
name before. As if he did not know 
it. Puzzling it out. 

And then the line beneath it: 



SUPERVISOR, ALIEN 
RELATIONS BUREAU 

Space Sector 16 

And the 'line beneath that: 

Department of Galactic ' 
Investigation (Justice) 

EARLY afternoon sunlight 
slanted through a window and 
fell across his head, highlighting 
the clipped silver mustache, the 
whitening temple hair. 

Five men had died. . . . 

He wished that he could get it 
out of his mind. There was other 
work. This Sutton thing, for in- 
stance. The reports on that would 
be coming in within an hour or so. 

But there was a photograph . . . 
a photograph from Thorne, that he 
could not forget. v 

A smashed machine and broken 
bodies and a great smoking gash- 
sliced across the turf. The silver 
river flowed in a silence that one 
knew was there even in the photo- 
graph, and far in the distance the 
spidery web of Andrelon rose 
against a pinkish sky. 

Adams smiled softly to himself. 
Aldebaran XII, he thought, must be 
a lovely world. He never had been 
there and he never would be there 
... for there were too many planets 
for one man to even dream of seeing 
all. 

Someday, perhaps, when the tele- 
ports would transmit matter instant- 
ly across light years instead of puny 



TIME QUARRY 



23 



V 



miles . . . perhaps then a man might 
just whisk across to any planet that 
he wished, for a day or hour, or. 
just to say he'd been there. 

But Adams didn't need to be 
there. He had eyes' and ears there, 
as he had on every occupied planet 
within the entire galactic sector. 

Thorne was there, and Thome 
was an able man. He wouldn't rest 
until he'd, wrung the last ounce of 
information from the broken wreck 
and bodies. 

I wish I could forget it, Adams 
told himself. It's important, yes, but 
not all-important. 

A buzzer hummed at Adams and 
he flipped up a tumbler on his desk. 
"What is it?" 

A female android voice an- 
swered: "It's Mr. Thorne, sir, on 
the mentophone from Andrelon." 

"Thank you, Alice," Adams said. 

He clicked open a drawer and 
took out the mentophone cap, ^placed 
it on his head, adjusted it with 
steady fingers. Thoughts flickered 
through his brain, disjointed, ran- 
dom thought, enormously amplified 
by the Electro-Neuron Boosting Sta- 
tions. Ghost thoughts drifting 
through the universe — residual flot- 
sam from the minds of men and 
creatures back to the unguessable 
past. 

Adams flinched. I'll never get 
used to it, he told himself. I will 
always duck, like the kid who an- 
ticipates a cuffing. 

The ghost thoughts peeped and 
cluttered at him. 



Adams closed his eyes and settled 
back. "Hello, Thorne," he thought. 

Thome's thought came in, thinned 
and tenuous over the distance of 
more than fifty light years. 

"That you, Adams?" 

"Yes, it's me. What's up?" 

A high, sing-song thought came 
in and skipped along his brain: 
Spill the rattle . . . pinch the fish 
. . . oxygen is high-priced. 

Adams forced the unwanted 
thought out of his brain, built up 
his concentration. "Start over .again, 
Thorne. A ghost thought came along 
and blotted you out." 

Thome's thought was louder now, 
more distinct. "1 wanted to ask you 
about a name. Seems to me I heard 
it once before, but I can't be sure." 

"What name?" 

Thorne was spacing his thoughts 
now, placing them slowly and with 
emphasis to cut through the static. 
"The name is Asher Sutton." 

ADAMS sat bolt upright in his 
chair. His mouth flapped open. 
"What?" he roared. 

"Walk west," said a voice in his 
brain. "Walk west and then straight 

Thome's thought came in. . . . "it 
was the name that was on the fly 
leaf. . . ." 

"Start over," Adams concentrated. 
"Start over and take it slow. I 
couldn't hear a thing you thought." 

Thome's thoughts came slowly, 
intense mental power behind each 
word: "lit was like this. You remem- 



24 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



• 






■3 



ber that wreck we had out here? 
Five men killed. . . ." 

"Yes, yes. Of course I remember 
it." 

"Well, we found a book, or what 
once had been a book, on one *of 
the corpses. The book was burned, 
scorched through and through by 
radiation. The robots did what they 
could with it, but that wasn't much. 
A word here and there. Nothing 
you could make any sense out 
of. . . ." 

The thought static purred and 
fumbled. Half thoughts cut through. 
Rambling thought-snatches that had 
no human sense or meaning — that 
could have had no human sense or 
meaning even if they had been heard 
in their entirety. 

"Start over," Adams thought des- 
perately. "Start over." 

"You know about this wreck. Five 
men. ..." 

"Yes, yes. I got that much. Up 
to the part about the book. Where 
does Sutton come in?" 

"That was about all the robotics 
could figure out," Thorne told him. 
"Just three words. 'By Asher Sut- 
ton.' Like he might have been the 
author. Like the book might have 
been written by him. It was on one 
of the first pages. The title page, 
maybe. Such and such a book by 
Asher Sutton." 

There was silence. Even the ghost 

/ voices were still for a moment. Then 

a piping, lisping thought came in 

... a baby thought, immature and 

puling. And the thought was with- 



out context, untranslatable, almost 
meaningless . . . but hideous and 
nerve-wrenching in its alien imbe- 
cility. 

Adams felt the sudden chill of 
fear slice into his marrow. He 
grasped the chair arms with both his 
hands and hung on tight while the 
degraded mindlessness " babbled in 
his brain. 

SUDDENLY the thought was 
gone. Fifty light years of space . 
whistled in the cold. 

Adams relaxed, felt the perspira- 
tion running from his armpits, trick- 
ling down his ribs. "You there, 
Thorne?" he asked. 

"Yes. I caught some of that one, 
too." 

"Pretty bad, wasn't it?" 

"I've never heard much worse," 
Thorne told him. There was a mo- 
ment's silence. Then Thome's 
thoughts took up again. "Maybe I'm 
just wasting time. But it seemed to 
me I remembered that flame." 

"You have," Adams thought 
back. "Sutton went to 61 Cygni." 

"Oh, he's the one!" 

"He got back this morning." 

"Couldn't have been him, then. 
Someone else by the same name." 

"Must have been," thought 
Adams. 

"Nothing else to report," Thorne 
told him. "The name just bothered 
me. 

"Keep at it," Adams thought. 
"Let me know anything that turns 
up." 



TIME QUARRY 



25 



"I will," Thorne promised. 
"Good-bye." 

"Thanks for calling." 

ADAMS lifted off the mento- 
phone cap. He opened his eyes 
and the sight of the room, common- 
place and Earthly, with the sun 
streaming through the window, was 
almost a physical shock. 

He sat limp in his chair, thinking, 
remembering. 

The man had come at twilight, 
stepping out of the shadows onto 
the patio, and he had sat down in 
the darkness and talked like any 
other man. Except the things he 
said. 

When he returns, Sutton must be 
killed. I am your successor. 
■ Crazy talk. Unbelievable. Impos- 
sible. 

And, still, maybe I should have 
listened. Maybe I should have heard 
him out instead of flying off the 
handle. 

Except thaj you don't kill a man 
who comes back after twenty years. 

Especially a man like Sutton. 

Sutton is a good man. One of the 
best the Bureau has. Slick as a 
whistle, well grounded in alien psy- 
chology, an authority on galactic 
politics. No other man could have 
done the Cygnian job as well. 

If he did it. 

I don't know that, of course. But 
he'll be in tomorrow and he'll tell 
me all about it. 

A man is entitled to a day's rest 
after twenty years. 



Slowly, Adams reached out an 
almost reluctant hand and snapped 
up a tumbler. 

Alice answered. 

"Send me in the Asher Sutton 
file." 

"Yes, Mr. Adams." 

Adams settled back in his chair. 

The warmth of the sun felt good 
across his shoulders. The ticking of 
the clock was comforting after the 
ghost voices whispering out in space. 
Thoughts that one could not pin- 
down, that one could not trace back 
and say: "This one started here and 
then." - \ 

Although we're trying, Adams 
thought. He chuckled to himself at 
the weirdness of the project. 

Thousands of listeners listening 
in on the random thoughts of ran- 
dom time and space, listening in for 
clues, for hints, for leads. Seeking 
a driblet of sense from the stream 
of gibberish . . . hunting the word 
or sentence or disassociated thought 
that might be translated into a new 
philosophy or a new technique or a 
new science ... or a new something 
that the human race had never even 
dreamed of. 

A new concept, said Adams, talk- 
ing to himself. An entirely new con- 
cept. 

Adams scowled to himself. 

A new concept might be danger- 
ous.. This was not the time for any- 
thing that did not fit into human 
society, that did not match the pat- 
tern of human thought and action. 

There must be no confusion. 



26 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



There must be nothing but the sheer, 
bulldog determination to hang on, to 
sink in one's teeth and stay. To 
maintain the status quo. 

Later, someday, many centuries 
from now, there would be a time 
and place and room for a new con- 
cept. When Man's grip was firmer, 
when the line was not too thin, when 
a mistake or two would not spell 
disaster. 

Man, at the moment, controlled 
every factor. He held the edge at 
every point ... a slight edge, ad- 
mitted, but certainly an edge. And 
it must stay that way. There must 
be nothing that would tip the scale 
in the wrong direction. Not a word 
or thought, not an action or a whis- 
per. 

The desk buzzer lighted up and 
snarled at him. 

"Yes?" said Adams. 

Alice's words tumbled over one 
another. "The file, sir. The Sutton 
file." 

"What about the Sutton file? 
Bring it in here." 
It s gone, sir. 

"Someone is using it."' 

"No, sir, not that. It has been 
stolen." 

Adams jerked straight upright. 
"Stolen!" 

"That is right, sir. Twenty years 
ago." 

"But twenty years. . 

"We checked the security points," 
said Alice. "It was stolen three days 
after Mr. Sutton set out for 6*1 
Cygni.' 



• >» 



VII 

THE lawyer told Sutton his name 
was Wellington. He had painted 
a thin coat of plastic lacquer over his 
forehead to hide the tattoo, but the 
mark of the manufacture showed 
through, provided one looked closely. 

He laid his hat very carefully on 
a table, sat down meticulously in a 
chair and placed his briefcase across 
his knee. He handed Sutton a rolled- 
up paper. 

"Your newspaper/ sir," he said. 
"It was outside the door. I thought 
that you might want it." 

"Thanks," said Sutton. 

Wellington cleared his throat. 
"You are Asher Sutton?" he asked. 

Sutton nodded. 

"I represent a certain robot who 
commonly went by the name of 
Buster. You may remember him." 

Sutton leaned quickly forward. 
"Remember him? Why, he was a 
second father to me. Raised me after 
both my parents died. He has been 
with the Sutton family for almost 
four thousand years." 

Wellington cleared his throat 
again. "Quite so." 

Sutton leaned back in his chair, 
crushing the newspaper in his grip. 
"Don't tell me . . ." 

Wellington waved a sober hand. 
"No, he's in no trouble. Not yet, 
that is. Not unless you choose to 
make it for him." 

"What has he done?" asked Sut- 
ton. 

"He has run away." 



TIME QUARRY 



27 



■s 



- 



. 



. 



i 






"Good Lord! Run away? Where 
to?" 

Wellington squirmed uneasily in • 
the chair. "To one of the Tower 
stars, I believe." 

"But," protested Sutton, "that's 
way out. Out almost to the edge of 
the galaxy." 

Wellington nodded. "He bought 
himself a new body and a ship and 
stocked it up . . ." 

"With what? asked Sutton. "Bus- 
ter had no money." 

"Oh, yes, he had. Money he had 
saved over — what was it you said ? — 
four thousand years or so. Tips from 
guests, Christmas presents, one thing 
and another. It would all count up 
... in four thouand years. (Placed at 
interest, you know." 

"But why?" asked Sutton, "What 
does he intend to do?" 

"He took out a homestead on a 



planet. He didn't sneak away. He 
filed his claim, so you can trace him 
if you wish. He used the family 
name, sir. That worried him a little. 
He hoped you wouldn't mind." 

Sutton shook his head. "Not at 
all. He has a right to that name, as 
good a right as I have myself." 

"You don't mind, then?" asked 
Wellington. "About the whole thing, 
I mean ? After all, he was your prop- 
erty. • 

"No," said Sutton, "I don't mind. 
But I was looking forward to seeing 
him again. I called the old home 
place, but there was no answer. I 
thought he might be out." 

Wellington reached into the inside 
pocket of his coat. "He left you a 
letter," he said, holding it out. 

Sutton took it. It had his name 
written across its face. He turned it 
over, but there was nothing more. 




28 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



I ■ 



"He also," said Wellington, "left 
an old trunk in my custody. Said it 
contained some old family papers 
that you might find of interest." 

Sutton sat quietly staring across 
the room, seeing nothing. 

There had- been an apple tree at 
the gate, and each year young Ash 
Sutton had eaten the apples when 
they were green, and Buster had 
nursed him each time gently through 
the crisis and then had whaled him 
good and proper to teach him re- 
spect for his human metabolism. 
And when the kid down the road 
had licked him on the way home 
from school, it had been Buster who 
had taken him out in the backyard 
and taught him how to fight with 
head as well as hands. 

Sutton clenched his fists uncon- 
sciously, remembering the surge of 
satisfaction, the red rawness of his 
knuckles. The kid down the road, 
he recalled, had nursed a black eye 
for a week and become his fastest 
friend. 

"About the trunk, sir?" asked Wel- 
lington. "You will want it deliv- 
ered?" 

"Yes," said Sutton, "if you 
please." 

"It will be here tomorrow morn- 
ing." The android picked up his 
hat and rose. "I want to thank you, 
sir, for my client. He assured me 
you would be reasonable." 

"Not reasonable," said Sutton. 
"Just fair. He took care of us for 
many years. He has earned his free- 
dom." 




"Good day, sir," said Wellington. 

"Good day," said Sutton. "And 
thank you very much." 

One of the mermaids whistled a f 
Sutton. Sutton told her. "One of 
these days, my beauty, you'll do that 
once too often." 

She thumbed her nose at him and 
dived into the fountain. 

The door clicked shut as Welling- 
ton left. 

Slowly, Sutton tore the letter open, 
spread out the single page: 

Dear Ash — I went to see Mi\ 
Adams today and he told me 



TIME QUARRY 



29 



that he was afraid that you 
would not come back, but I told 
him that I knew you would. So 
I'm not doing this because J 
think you won't come back and 
that you will never know . . . 
because I know you pill. Since 
you left me and struck out on 
your own, I have felt old and 
useless. In a galaxy where there 
were many things to do, 1 was 
doing nothing. You told me you 
just wanted me to live on at the 
old place and take it easy,, and 
1 knew you did that because you 
were kind and would not sell 
me even if you had no use for 
me. So I'm doing something 1 
have always wanted to do. I am 
filing on a planet. It sounds 
like a pretty good planet and 
I should be able to do some- 
thing with it. I shall fix it up 
and build a home and maybe 
someday you will come and yisit 
me. 

P. S. If you ever want me, 
you can find out where I am 
at the homestead office. 

GENTLY, Sutton folded the sheet, 
put it in his pocket. 

He sat idly in the chair, listening 
to the purling of the stream that 
gushed through the painting hung 
above the fireplace. A bird sang and 
a fish jumped in a quiet pool around 
the bend, just outside the frame. 

Tomorrow, he thought, I will see 
Adams. Maybe I can find out if he's 
behind what happened. Although 



why should he be? I'm working for 
•him. I'm carrying out his orders. 

He shook his head. No, it couldn't 
be Adams. 

But it must be someone. Someone 
who had been laying for him, who 
even now was watching. 

He shrugged mental shoulders, 
picked up the newspaper and opened 
it. 

It was the Galactic Press and in 
twenty years its format had not 
changed. Conservative columns of 
gray type ran down the page, broken 
only by laconic headings. Earth news 
started in the upper left-hand corner 
of the front page, followed by Mar- 
tian news, by Venusian news, by the 
column from the asteroids, the col- 
umn and a half from the Jovian 
moons . . . then the outer planets. 
News from the rest of the galaxy, 
he knew, could be found on the in- 
side pages. A paragraph or two to 
each story. Like the old community 
personal columns in the country 
papers of many centuries before. 

Still, thought Sutton, smoothing 
out the paper, it was the only way it 
could be handled. There was so much 
news . . . news from many worlds, 
from many sectors . . . human news, 
android and robot news, alien news. 
The items had to be boiled down, 
condensed, compressed, making one 
word do the job of a hundred. 

There were other papers, of 
course, serving isolated sections, and 
these would give the local news in 
more detail. But on Earth there was 
need of galactic-wide news coverage 



30 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



N 



J 



.' ' 



. . . for Earth was the capital of the 
galaxy, a planet that was nothing but 
a capital, a planet that grew no food, 
allowed no industries, that made its 
business nothing but government. A 
planet whose every inch was land- 
scaped and tended like a lawn or 
park or garden. 

Sutton ran his eye down the 'Earth 
column. An earthquake in eastern 
Asia. A new underwater development 
for the housing of alien employes 
and representatives from watery 
worlds. Delivery of three new star 
ships to the Sector 19 run. And 
then: 

Asher Sutton, special agent 
of the department of galactic 
investigation, returned today 
from 61 Cygni, to which he was 
assigned twenty years ago. Hope 
of his return had been aband- 
oned. Immediately upon his 
landing, a guard was thrown 
around his ship and he was in 
seclusion at the Orion Arms. All 
attempts to reach him for a state- 
ment failed. Shortly after his ar- 
rival, he was called out by Geof- 
frey Benton. Mr. Sutton chose 
a pistol and informality. 

• 

Sutton read the item again. All 
attempts to reach him . . . 

Herkimer had said there were re- 
porters and photographers in the 
lobby, and ten minutes later Ferdin- 
and had sworn there weren't. He had 
had no calls. There had been no at- 
tempt to reach him. Or had there? 



Attempts that had been neatly 
stopped. Stopped by the same person 
who had lain in wait for him, the 
same power that had been inside the 
room when he stepped across the 
threshold. 

He dropped the paper to the floor, 
sat thinking. 

He had been drugged and 
searched, an attempt made to probe 
his mind. His attache case had been, 
ransacked. He had been challenged 
by one of Earth's foremost duelists* 
The old family robot had run away; 
... or been persuaded to run away* 
Attempts by the press to reach him 
had been stopped cold. 

The visor purred at him. 

A call. The first since he had 
arrived, 

HE SWUNG around in his chair 
and flipped up the switch. 

A woman's face came in. Granite 
eyes and skin magnolia white, hair 
a copper glory. 

"My name is Eva Armour," she 
said. "I am the one who asked you 
to hold the elevator." 

"I recognized you," said Sutton. 

"I called to make amends." 

"There is no need . . ." 

"But there is, Mr. Sutton. You 
thought I was laughing at you and 
I really wasn't." 

"I looked funny," Sutton told her. 
"It was your privilege to laugh." 

"Will you take me out to dinner?" 
she asked. 

"Certainly," gasped Sutton. "I 
would be delighted to." 



TIME QUARRY 



31 



"And someplace afterward," she 
suggested. "We'll make an evening 
of it" 

"Gladly." 

"I'll meet you in the lobby at 
seven/' she said. "And I won't be 
late." 

The visor faded and Sutton sat 
stiffly in the chair. 

We'll make an evening of it, he 
said, talking to himself, and you'll 
be lucky if you're alive tomorrow. 

VIII 

ADAMS silently faced the four 
men who had come into his 
office, trying to make out what they 
might be thinking. But their faces 
gave no indication. 

Clark, the space construction en- 
gineer, clutched a field book in his 
hand and his face was set and stern. 
There was no foolishness about 
Clark . . . ever. 

Anderson, anatomist, big and 
rough, was lighting his pipe and, 
for the moment, that seemed to him 
the most important thing in all the 
worlds. 

Blackburn, the psychologist, 
frowned at the glowing tip of his 
cigarette, and Shulcross, the language 
expert, sprawled sloppily in his chair 
like a bored youngster. 

They found something, 'Adams 
told himself. They found plenty and 
some of it has them tangled up. 

"Clark," said Adams, "suppose 
you start us out." 

"We looked the ship over," Clark 



told him, "and we found it couldn't 

fly." 

"But it did," said Adams. "Sutton 
brought it home." 

Clark shrugged, "He might as well 
have used a log. Or a hunk of rock. 
Either one would have served the 
purpose. Either one would fly just 
as well, or better, than that heap of 
junk." 

"Junk?" 

"The engines were washed out," 
said Clark. "The safety automatics 
were the only things that kept them 
from atomizing. The ports were 
cracked, some of them were broken. 
One of the tubes was busted off and 
lost. The whole ship was twisted out 
of line." 

"That sounds like a wreck," - 
Adams objected. 

"It had struck something." Clark 
declared. "Struck it hard and fast. 
Seams were opened, the structural 
plates were bent, the whole thing 
was twisted out of kilter. Even if you 
could start the engines, the ship 
would never handle. Even with the 
tubes okay you couldn't set a course. 
Give it any drive and it would simply 
corkscrew." 

Anderson cleared his throat. 
"What would have happened to 
Sutton if he'd been in it when it * 
it was struck?" 

"He would have died," said Clark. 

"You are positive of that?" 

"No question. Even a miracle 
wouldn't have saved him. We 
thought of that, so we worked it 
out. We rigged up a diagram and we 



32 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



used the most conservative force fac- 
tors to show theoretic effects . . ." 

Adams interrupted. "But he must 
have been in the ship." 

Clark shook his head stubbornly. 
"If he was, he died. Our diagram 
shows he didn't have a chance. If 
one force didn't kill him, a dozen 
others would." 

"Sutton came back," Adams said. 

THE two stared at one another, 
half angrily. 

Anderson broke the silence. "Had 
he tried to fix it up?" 

Clark shook his head. "Not a 
mark to show he did. There would 
have been no use trying. Sutton did- 
n't know a thing about mechanics. 
Not a single thing. I checked on that. 
He had no training, no natural in- 
clination. And it takes a man with 
savvy to repair an atomic engine. 
Just to fix it, not rebuild it. And 
this crash would have called for 
complete rebuilding." 

Shulcross spoke for the first time, 
softly, quietly, not moving from his 
awkward slouch. "Maybe we're 
starting in the middle. If we started 
at the beginning, laid the ground- 
work first, we might get a better 
idea of what really happened." 

They looked at him, all of them, 
wondering what he meant. Shul- 
cross saw it was up to him to go 
ahead. He spoke to Adams: "Do you 
have any idea of what sort of place 
this Cygnian world might be where 
Sutton went?" 

Adams smiled wearily. "We've 



never been able to get close enough 
to know. It's the /seventh planet of 
61 Cygni. It might have been any 
one of the system's sixteen planets, 
but mathematically it was figured out 
that the seventh planet had the best 
chance of sustaining life."- 

He paused and looked around 
the circle of faces and saw that they 
were waiting for him to go on. 

"Sixty-one," he said, "is a near 
neighbor of ours. It was one of the 
first suns that Man headed for when 
he left the solar system. Ever since 
it has been a thorn in our sides." 

Anderson grinned. "Because we 
couldn't crack it." 

Adams nodded. "That's right. A 
secret system in a galaxy that held 
few secrets from Man anytime he 
wanted to go out and take the trouble % 
to solve them. We've run into all 
sorts of weird things, of course. Plan- 
etary conditions that, to this day, we 
haven't licked. Weird, dangerous 
life. Economic systems and psycho- 
logical concepts that had us floored 
and still give us a headache every 
time we think of them. But we were 
always able, at the very least, to see 
the thing that gave us trouble, to 
know the thing that licked us. With 
Cygni it was different. We couldn't 
even get there. 

"The planets are either cloud- 
covered or screenad, for we've never 
seen the surface of a single one of 
them. And when you get within a 
few billion miles of the system you 
start sliding." He turned to Clark. 
"That's the right word, isn't it?" 



TIME QUARRY 



33 



"There's no word for it," Clark 
told him, "but sliding comes as close 
as any. You aren't stopped and you 
aren't slowed, but you are deflected. 
As if the ship had hit ice, although 
it feels slicker than ice. Whatever, it 
is, it doesn't register. There's no 
sign of it, nothing that you can see, 
nothing that makes even the faintest 
flicker on the instruments, but you 
hit it and you slide off course. You 
% correct and you slide off course again. 
In the early days, it drove men batty 
trying to reach the system and never 
getting a mile nearer than a certain 
imaginary line." 

"As if" said Adams, "someone 
had taken his finger and drawn a 
deadline around the system." 

"Something like that," said Clark. 

"But Sutton ' got through," said 
Anderson. 

"I don't like it," Clark declared. 
"I don't like a thing about it. Some- 
one got a brainstorm. Our ships are 
too big, they said. If we use smaller 
ships, we might squeeze through. As 
if the thing that kept us off was a 
mesh holding back the big jobs." 

"Sutton got through," said Adams 
stubbornly. "They launched him in 
a lifeboat and he got through where 
the big ships couldn't." 

CLARK shook his head, just as 
stubbornly. "It doesn't make 
sense. Smallness and bigness wouldn't 
have a thing to do with it. There's 
another factor somewhere, a factor 
we've never even thought of. Sutton 
got through, all right, and he crashed 



and if he was in the ship when it 
crashed, he died. But he didn't get 
through only because his ship was 
small. It was for some other reason." 

The men sat tense, thinking, wait- 
ing. 

"Why Sutton?" Anderson asked, 
finally. 

Adams answered quietly. "The 
ship was small. We could only send 
one man. We picked the man we 
thought could do the best job if he 
did get through." 

"And Sutton was the best man?" 

"He was," said Adams. 

Anderson said amiably: "Well, 
apparently he was. He got through." 

"Or was let through," said Black- 
burn. 

"Not necessarily," said Anderson. 

"It follows," Blackburn contended. 
"Why did we want to get into the 
Cygnian system? To find out i£ it 
was dangerous. That was the idea, 
wasn't it?" 

"That was the idea," Adams 
agreed. "Anything unknown is po- 
tentially dangerous. You can't write 
it off until you are sure. Those were 
Sutton's instructions: Find out if 61 
is dangerous." 

"And, by the same token, they'd 
want to find out about us," Blackburn 
said. "We'd been prying and poking 
at them for several thousand years. 
They might have wanted to find out 
about us as badly as we did about 
them." 

Anderson nodded. "I see what 
you mean. They'd chance one man, 
if they could haul him in, but they 



34 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



wouldn't let. a full-armed ship and 
a fighting crew get in shooting dis- 
tance." 

"Exactly," said Blackburn. 

Adams dismissed the line of talk 
abruptly, said to Clark: "You spoke 
of dents. Were they made recently?" 

"Twenty years ago looks right to 
me. There was a lot of rust. Some 
of the wiring was getting pretty 
soft." 

"Let us suppose, then," said An- 
derson, "that Sutton, by some mir- 
acle, had the knowledge to fix the 
ship. Even so, he would have needed 
materials." 
' "Plenty of them," said Clark. 

"The Cygnians could have sup- 
plied them," Shulcross suggested. 

'"If there are any Cygnians," said 
Anderson. 

"I don't believe they could," 
Blackburn declared. "A race that 
hides behind a screen would not be 
mechanical. If they knew mechan- 
ics, they would go .out into space 
instead of shielding themselves from 
space. I'll make a guess the Cygnians 
are non-mechanical." 

"But the screen," Anderson 
prompted. 

"It wouldn't have to be mechani- 
cal," Blackburn said flatly. "Some 
energy force or other we don't know 
about." 

Clark smacked his open palm on 
his knee. "What's the use of all this 
speculation? Sutton didn't repair 
that ship. He brought it back, some- 
how, without repair. He didn't even 
try to fix it. There are layers of rust 



on everything and there's not a 
wrench mark on it." 

Shulcross leaned forward. "One 
thing I don't get: Clark says some 
of the ports were broken. That 
means Sutton navigated eleven light 
years without air to breathe." 

"He used a suit," said Blackburn. 

Clark said quietly: "There weren't 
any suits." He looked around the 
room, almost as if he feared some 
one outside the little circle might 
be listening. "And that isn't all. 
There wasn't any food and there 
wasn't any water." 

Anderson tapped out his pipe 
against the palm of his hand and 
the hollow sound of tapping echoed 
in the room. Carefully, deliberately, 
almost as if he forced himself to 
concentrate upon it, he dropped the 
ash from his hand into a tray. 

"I might have the answer to that 
one," he said. "At least a clue. There 
is still a lot of work to do before 
we have the answer. And, then, we • 
can't be sure." He was aware of the 
eyes upon him. "I hesitate to say the 
thing I have in mind." 

NO ONE spoke a word. 
The clock on the wall ticked 
the seconds off. 

From far outside the open win- 
dow, a locust hummed in the quiet 
of afternoon. 

"I don't think," said Anderson, 
"that the man is human." 

The clock ticked on. The locust 
shrilled to tense silence. 

Adams finally spoke. "But the 



TIME QUARRY 



35 






fingerprints checked. The eyeprints, 
too." 

"Oh, it's Sutton, all right," An- 
derson admitted. "There is no doubt 
of that. Sutton on the outside. Sut- 
ton in the flesh. The same body, or 
at least part of the same body, that 
left Earth twenty years ago." 

"What are you getting at?" asked 
Clark. "If he's the same, he's hu- 
man." 

"You take an old spaceship," said 
Anderson, "and you juice it up. Add 
a gadget here and another there, 
eliminate one thing, modify another. 
What have you got?" 

"A rebuilt job," said Clark. 

"That's just the phrase I wanted," 
Anderson told them. "Someone or 
something has done the same to 
Sutton. -He's a rebuilt job. And the 
best human job I have ever seen. 
He's got two hearts and his nervous 
system's haywire . . . well, not hay- 
wire exactly, but different. Certainly 
not human. And he's got an extra 
circulatory system. Not a circulatory 
system, either, but that is what it 
-looks like. Only it's not connected 
with the heart. Right now, I'd say, 
it's not being used. Like a spare 
system. One system starts running 
down and you can switch to the 
spare one while you tinker with the 
first." 

ANDERSON pocketed his pipe, 
rubbed his hands together al- 
most as if he were washing them. 

"Well, there," he said, "you have 
it." 



Blackburn blurted out: "It sounds 
impossible." 

Anderson appeared not to have 
heard him, and yet answered him. 
"We had Sutton under for the best 
part of an hour and we put every 
inch of him on tape and film. It 
takes some time to analyze a job 
like that. We aren't finished yet. 
But we failed in one thing. We used 
a psychonometer on his mind and 
we didn't get a nibble. Not a quaver, 
not a thought. Not even mental 
seepage. His mind was closed, tight 
shut." 

"Some defect in the meter," 
Adams suggested. 

"No," said Anderson. "We 
checked that." He looked around the 
room, from one face to another. 
"Maybe you don't realize the im- 
plication. When a man is drugged 
or asleep ... or in any case where 
he is unaware, a psychonometer will 
turn him inside out. It will dig out 
things that his waking self would 
swear he didn't know. Even when a 
man fights against it, there is a cer- 
tain seepage and that seepage 
widens as his mental resistance wears 
down." 

"But it didn.*t work with Sutton," 
Shulcross said. 

"That's right. It didn't work with 
Sutton. I tell you, the man's not hu- 
man." 

"And you think he's different 
enough, physically, so that he could 
live in space without air, food and 
water?" 

"I don't know," said Anderson. 






36 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



He licked his lips and stared around 
the room. "I don't know. I simply 
don't." 

Adams spoke softly. "We must 
not get upset. Alienness is no 
strange thing to us, Once it might 
have 'been, when the first humans 
went out into space. But today. . . ." 

Clark interrupted impatiently. 
"Alien things themselves don't 
bother me. But when a man turns 
alien. ..." He gulped, appealed to 
Anderson. "Do you think he's dan- 
gerous?" 

"Possibly," said Anderson. 

"Even if he is, he can't do much 
to harm us," Adams told them calm- 
ly. "That place of his is simply 
clogged with spy rigs." 

"Any reports in yet?" asked 
Blackburn. 

"Just general. Nothing specific. 
Sutton has been taking it easy. Had 
a few calls. Made a few himself. 
Had a visitor or two." 

"He knows he's being watched," 
said Clark. "He's putting on an 
act." 

"There's a rumor around," said 
Blackburn, "that Benton challenged 
him." 

Adams nodded. "Yes, he did. Ash 
tried to back out of it. That doesn't 
sound as if he's dangerous." 

"Maybe," speculated Clark, almost 
hopefully, "Benton will close our 
case for us." 

Adams smiled thinly. "Somehow 
I think Ash may have spent the aft- 
ernoon thinking up a dirty deal for 
our Mr. Benton." 



Anderson had fished the pipe out 
of his pocket, was loading it from 
his pouch. Clark was fumbling for 
a cigarette. 

ADAMS looked at Shulcross. 
"You have something?" 

The language expert nodded. 
"But it's not too exciting. We 
opened Sutton's case and we found 
a manuscript. We photostated it and 
replaced it exactly as it was. But so 
far it hasn't done us any good. We 
can't read a word of it." 

"Code," said Blackburn. 

Shulcross shook his head. "If it 
was code, our robots would have 
cracked it in an hour or two. But 
it's not a code. It's language. And 
until you get a key, a language can't 
be cracked." 

"You've checked, of course." 

Shulcross smiled glumly. "Back • 
to the old Earth languages . . . back 
to Babylon and Crete. We cross- 
checked every lingo in the galaxy. 
None of them came close." 

"Language," said Blackburn. "A 
new language. That means Sutton 
found something." 

"Sutton would," said Adams. 
"He's the best agent I ever had." 

Anderson stirred restlessly in his 
chair. "You like Sutton?" he asked. 

"I do," said Adams. 

"Adams," said Anderson, "I've 
been wondering. It's a thing that 
struck me funny from the first." 

"Yes, what is it?" 

"You knew Sutton was coming 
back. Knew almost to the minute 



TIME QUARRY 



3? 



- 



when he would arrive. And you set 
3 mousetrap for him. How come?" 

"Just a hunch," said Adams. 

For a long moment all four of 
them sat looking at him. Then they 
saw he meant to say no more. They 

rose and left the room. / 

» 

IX 

ACROSS the room a woman's 
laughter floated, sharp-edged 
with excitement. 

The lights changed from the dusk- 
blue of April to the purple-gray of 
madness, and the room was another 
world that floated in a hush that 
was not exactly silence. Perfume 
came down a breeze that touched 
the cheek with ice . . . perfume that 
called to mind black orchids in an 
outland of breathless terror. 

The floor swayed beneath Sutton's 
feet and he felt Eva's- small fist dig- 
ging hard into his arm. 

The Zag spoke to them — an and- 
roid with specialized psychic devel- 
opment — and his words were dead 
and hollow sounds dripping from 
a mummied husk. "What is it that 
you wish? Here you live the lives 
you yearn for . . . find any escape 
that, you may seek . . . possess the 
things you dream of." 

"There was a stream," said Sut- 
ton. "A little creek that ran. . . ." 

The light changed to green, a 
faery green that glowed with soft, 
quiet life, exuberant, springtime life 
and the hint of things to come, and 
there were trees, trees that were 



fringed and haloed with the glisten- 
ing, sun-kissed green of first-burst- 
ing buds. 

Sutton wiggled his toes and knew 
the grass beneath them, the first 
tender grass of spring, and smelled 
the hepatieas and bloodroot that had 
almost no smell at all . . . and the 
stronger scent of sweet Williams 
blooming on the hill across the 
creek. 

He told himself: "It's too early 
for sweet Williams to be in bloom/' 

The creek gurgled at him as it 
ran across the shingle down into the 
Big Hole, and he hurried forward 
across the meadow grass, cane pole 
tight-clutched in one hand, the can 
of worms in the other. 

A bluebird flashed through the 
trees that climbed the bluff across 
the meadow and a robin sang high 
in the top of the mighty elm tliat 
grew above the Big Hole. 

Sutton found the worn place in 
the bank, like a chair with the elm's 
trunk serving as a back, and he sat 
down in it and leaned forward to 
peer into the water. The current ran 
strong and dark and deep. 

Sutton drew in his breath and 
held it with pent-up anticipation. 
With shaking hands he found the 
biggest worm and pulled it from the 
can, baited up the hook. 

Breathlessly, he dropped the hook 
into the water, canted the pole in 
front of him for easy handling. The 
bobber drifted down the swirling 
slide of water, floated' in an eddy 
where the current turned back upon 



38 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



- ■ .. . 

itself. It jerked, almost disappeared, 
then bobbed to the surface and 
floated once again. 

Sutton leaned forward, arms ach- 
ing with tension. But even through 
the tension, he knew the goodness 
of the day. The water talked to him 
and he felt himself grow and be- 
come a being that comprehended 
and became a part of the clean, white 
ecstasy that was the hills and stream 
and meadow . . . earth, cloud, water, 
sky and sun. 

And the bobber went clear under! 

He felt the weight and strength of 
the fish that he had caught. It sailed 
in an arc above his head and landed 
in the grass behind him. He laid 
down his pole, scrambled to his feet 
and ran. 

The chub flopped in the grass and 
he grabbed the line and held it up. 
It was a whopper! Sobbing in excite- 
ment, he dropped to his knees and 
grasped the fish,, removed the hook 
with fingers that fumbled in their 
trembling. 

"Hello," said a childish voice. 

Sutton twisted around, still on his 
knees. 

A LITTLE girl stood by the elm 
tree, and it seemed for a 
moment that he had seen her some- 
where before. But then he realized 
that she was a stranger and he 
• frowned a little, for girls were no 
good when it came to fishing. He 
hoped she wouldn't stay. It would be 
just like a girl to hang around and 
spoil the day for him. 



/'I am . . . ," she said, speaking a 
name he did not catch, for she lisped 
a little. 

He did not answer. 

"I am eight years old," she said. 

"I am Asher Sutton," he told 
her, "and I am ten . . . going on 
eleven." 

She stood and stared at him, one 
hand plucking nervously at the fig- 
ured apron that she wore. The apron, 
he noticed, was clean and starched, 
very stiff and prim, and she was mess- 
ing it all up with her nervous pluck- 
ing. 

"I am fishing," he said and tried 
very hard to keep from sounding too 
important. "And I just caught a 
whopper." 

He saw her eyes go large in sud- 
den terror at the sight of something 
that came up from behind him and 
he wheeled around, no longer on his 
knees, but on his feet, and his hand 
was snaking into the pocket of his 
coat/ 

The place was purple-gray and 
there was shrill woman-laughter and 
there was a face in front of him . . . 
a face he had seen that afternoon 
and never would forget. 

A fat and cultured face that 
twinkled even now with good fel- 
lowship, twinkled despite the deadly 
squint, and the gun already swing- 
ing upward in his hairy, pudgy fist. 

Sutton felt his own fingers touch 
the grip on the gun he carried, felt 
them tighten around it and jerk it 
from the pocket. But he was too late, 
he knew, to beat the spat of flame 



TIME QUARRY 



39 









/ 



from a gun that had long seconds 
start. 

Anger flamed within him, cold, 
desolate, deadly anger. Anger at the 
pudgy fist, at the smiling face . . . 
the face that would smile across a 
chess board or from behind a gun. 
The smile of an egotist who would 
try to beat a robotic that was de- 
signed to play a perfect game of 



chess ... an egotist who believed 
that he could shoot down Asher Sut- 
ton. 

THE anger, he realized, was some- 
thing more than anger . . . 
something greater and more devas- 
tating than the mere working of 
human adrenal. It was a part of him 
and something that was more than 




40 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



, 



him, more than the mortal thing of 
flesh and blood that was Asher Sut- 
ton. A terrible thing . plucked from 
non-humanity. 

The face before him melted ... or 
it seemed to melt. It changed and the 
smile was gone, and Sutton felt the 
anger whip from his brain and slam 
bullet-hard against the wilting per- 
sonality that was Geoffrey Benton. 

Benton's gun coughed loudly and 
the muzzle-flash was blood red in the 
purple light. Then Sutton felt the 
thud of his own gun slamming back 
against the heel of his hand as he 
pulled the trigger. 

Benton was falling, twisting for- 
ward, bending at the middle as if he 
had hinges in his stomach, and Sut- 
ton caught one glimpse of the purple- 
tinted face before it dropped to the 
floor. There were surprise and 
anguish and a terrible over-riding 
fear printed on the features that had 
been twisted out of shape. 

The crashing of the guns had 
smashed the place to silence, and 
through the garish light that swirled 
with powder smoke, Sutton saw the 
white blobs of many faces staring at 
him. Faces that mostly were without 
expression, although some of them 
had mouths and the mouths were 
round and open. 

He felt a tugging at his elbow and 
he moved, guided by the hand upon 
his arm. Suddenly he was limp and 
shaken and the anger was no more 
and he told himself: "I have just 
killed a man." 

"Quick," said Eva Armour's voice. 




TIME QUARRY 



41 



• 



• 






"We must get out of here. They'll 
be swarming at you now. The whole 
hell'-s pack of them." 

Tft was you," he told her. "I re- 
member now. I didn't catch the name 
at first. You mumbled it ... or I 
guess you lisped, and I didn't hear 
it.'" 

The girl tugged at his arm. "They 
had Benton- conditioned to kill you. 
They figured that was all they need- 
ed. They never dreamed you could 
match him in a duel." 

"You were the little girl," Sutton 
told her blankly. "You wore a check- 
ered apron and you kept twisting it 
nervously." 

"What 'in heaven's name are you 
talking about?" 

"I was fishing," Benton said, "and . 
I had just caught a big one when you 
came along ..." 

"You're crazy," said the girl. 
"Fishing? Here?" 

She pushed open a door and pulled 
him out and the cool air of night 
/slapped him briskly and shockingly . 
across the face. 

"Wait a second," he cried. He 
wheeled around and caught the girl's 
arms roughly in his hands. "They?" 
he yelled at her. "What are you talk- 
ing about? Who are they . . ." 

She stared at him wide-eyed. "You 
mean you don't know?" 

He shook his head, bewildered. 

"Poor Ash," she said. 

Her copper hair was a reddish 
flame, burnished and alive in the 
flicker of the sign that flashed on 
and off above the Zag House facade: 



DREAMS TO ORDER 

lave the Life You Missed! 
Dream Up a Tough One for Us! 

AN android doorman spoke to 
them softly. "You wished a cab, 
sir?" Even as he spoke, the car was 
there, sliding smoothly and silently 
up the driveway, like a black beetle 
winging from the night. The door- 
man reached out a hand and swung 
wide the door. "Quick is the word," 
he said. 

There was something in the soft, 
slurred tone that made Sutton move. 
He stepped inside the car and pulled 
Eva after him. The android slammed 
the door. 

Sutton tramped on the accelerator 
and the car screamed down the curv- 
ing driveway, slid into the highway, 
roared with leashed impatience as it 
took trie long road curving toward 
the hills. 

"Where?" asked Sutton. 

"Back to the Arms," she said. 
"They wouldn't dare to try for you 
there. Your room is rigged with 
rays." 

Sutton chuckled. "I have to be 
careful or I would trip on them. But 
how come you know?" 

"It is my job to know." 

"Friend or foe?" he asked. 

"Friend," she said. 

He turned his head and studied 
her. She had slumped down in the 
seat and was a little girl again . . . 
but she didn't have a checkered apron 
and she wasn't nervous. 

"I don't suppose," said Sutton, 



42 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 






"that it would be any use for me to 
ask you questions?" 

She shook her head. 

"If I did, you'd probably lie to 
me." 

"If I wanted to," she said. 

"I could shake it out of you." 

"You could, but you won't. You 
see, Ash, I know you very well." 

"You just met me yesterday." 

"Yes, I know," she said, "but I've 
studied you for all of twenty years." 



X 



THE trunk came in the morning 
when Sutton was finishing his 
breakfast. 

It was old and battered, the an- 
cient rawhide covering hanging in 
tatters to reveal the marred steel 
skeleton, flecked here and there with 
rust. A key was in the lock and the 
straps were broken. Mice had gnawed 
the leather completely off one end. 

Sutton remembered it. It was the 
one that had stood in the far corner 
of the attic when he had been a boy 
and gone there to play on rainy after- 
noons. . 

He picked up the neatly folded 
copy of the morning edition of the 
Galactic Press that had come with his 
breakfast tray and shook it out. 

The article he was looking for was 
on the front page, the third item in 
the Earth news column: 

Mr. Geoffrey Benton was 
killed last night in an informal 
meeting at one of the amuse- 



ment centers in the university 
district. The victor ' was Mr t 
Asher Sutton, who returned 
only yesterday from a mission to 
61 Cygni. 

There was a final sentence, the 
most damning that could be written 
of. a duelist: 

Mr. Benton fired first and 
missed. 

Sutton folded the paper again and 
laid it carefully on the table. He lit 
a cigarette. 

I thought it would be me, he told 
himself. I never fired a gun like that 
before . . . scarcely knew such a gun 
existed. Of course, I didn't really 
kill Benton. He killed himself. If he 
hadn't missed . . . and there was no 
excuse for missing ... the item 
would have read the other way 
around. 

We'll make an evening of it, the 
girl had said, and she probably 
knew. We'll have dinner and make 

* 

an evening of it and Geoffrey Ben- 
ton will kill you by appointment at 
the Zag House. 

YES, said Sutton to himself, she 
might have known. She knows 
too many things. About the spy traps 
in this room, for instance. And about 
someone who had Benton psycholog- 
ically conditioned to challenge me 
and kill me. 

She said friend when I asked her 
friend or foe, but a word is an easy 



TIME QUARRY 



43 



thing. There is no way to know if it 
is true or false. 

She said she had studied me for 
twenty years and that is false, of 
course, for twenty years ago I was 
setting out for Cygni and I was un- 
important. Just a cog in a great 
machine. I am unimportant still, 
unimportant to everyone but myself, 
and to a great idea that no human 
but myself could possible know 
about. For no matter if the manu- 
script was photostated; there is not a 
soul can read it. 

He snubbed out the cigarette and 
rose and walked over to the trunk. 
The lock was rusty . and the key 
turned hard, but he finally got it 
open and lifted up the lid. 

The trunk was half full of papers 
neatly piled. Sutton, looking at them, 
chuckled. Buster always was a me- 
thodical soul. But, then, all robots 
were methodical. It was the nature of 
them. Methodical and — what was it 
Herkimer had said? — stubborn. 

He squatted on the floor beside 
the trunk and rummaged through the 
contents. Old letters tied neatly in 
bundles. An old notebook from his 
college days. A sheaf of clipped- 
together documents that undoubtedly 
were outdated. A scrapbook littered 
with clippings that had not been 
pasted up. An album half filled with 
a cheap stamp collection. 

He squatted back on his heels and , 
turned the pages of the album lov- 
ingly, childhood memories coming 
bade again. Cheap stamps because he 
had had no money to buy the better 



ones. Gaudy ones because they had 
appealed to him. The stamp craze, 
he remembered, had lasted two years 
. . . three years at the most. He had 
pored over catalogs, had traded, 
picked up the strange lingo of the 
hobby . . . perforate, imperforate, 
shades, watermarks, intaglio. 

He smiled at the happiness of 
memory. There had been stamps he'd 
wanted, but could never have, and 
he had studied the illustrations of 
them until he knew each one by 
heart. He lifted his head and stared 
hard at the wall and tried to remem- 
ber what some of them were like, 
but there was no recollection. The 
once all-important thing had been 
buried by more than fifty years of 
other all-important matters. 

HE LAID the album to one. side, 
went at the trunk again. 

More notebooks and letters. Loose 
clippings. A curious-looking wrench. 
A well chewed bone that at one time 
probably had been the property and 
the solace of some loved but now 
forgotten family dog. 

Junk, said Sutton. Buster could 
have saved a lot of time by simply 
burning it. 

A couple of old newspapers. A 
moth-eaten pennant. A bulky letter 
that never had been opened. Sutton 
tossed it on top of the rest of the 
litter he had taken from the trunk, 
then hesitated, put out his hand and 
picked it up again. 

That stamp looked queer. The 
color, for one thing. 



44 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



Memory ticked within his brain 
and he saw the stamp as he (had seen 
it when a lad . . . not the stamp it- 
self, of course, but the illustration of 
it iii a catalog. 

He bent above the letter and 
caught a sudden, gasping breath. 

The stamp was old, incredibly 
old . . . incredibly old and worth 
. . . good Lord, how much was it 
worth? 

He tried to make out the post- 
mark, but it was faint with time. 

He got up slowly and carried the 
letter to the table, bent above it, 
puzzling out the town name. 

BRIDGEP WIS 

Bridgeport, probably. And WIS? 
Some political division lost in the 
mist of time. 

July 198 

July, 1980 — something! 

Sutton's hand shook. 

AN unopened letter, mailed 6,000 
years ago. Tossed in with this 
heap of junk. Lying cheek by jowl 
with a tooth- scarred bone and a 
funny wrench. 

An unopened letter . . . and with a 
stamp that was worth a fortune. 

Sutton read the postmark again. 
Bridgeport, Wis. July, it looked like 
11 . . . July 11, 198 — . The missing 
numeral in the year was too faint 
to make out. Maybe with a good 
glass it could be done. 

The address, faded but -stifl. legi- 
ble, said: 



Mr. John H. Sutton 

Bridgeport 

Wisconsin 

So that was what WIS was. Wis- 
consin. 

And the name was Sutton. 

Of course, it would 'be Sutton. 

What had Buster's android lawyer 
said? A trunk full of family papers. 

I'll have to look into historic 
geography, Sutton thought. I'll have 
to find out just where Wisconsin 
was. 

But John H. Sutton. That was an- 
other matter. Just another Sutton. 
One who had been dust these many 
years. A man who sometimes forgot 
to open up his mail. 

Sutton turned the letter and ex- 
amined the flap. There was no sign 
of tampering. The adhesive was flak- 
ing with age and when he ran a fin- 
gernail along one corner, the mucil- 
age came loose in a tiny shower of 
powder. The paper, he saw, was 
brittle and would require careful 
handling. 

A trunk full of family papers, 
the android Wellington had said 
when he came into the room and 
balanced himself very primly on the 
edge of a chair and laid his hat pre- 
cisely on the table top. 

And it was a trunk full of junk 
instead. Bones and wrenches and 
paper clips and clippings. Old note- 
books and letters and a letter that 
had been mailed 6,000 years ago 
and never had been opened. 

Did Buster know about the letter? 



TIME QUARRY 



45 



But even as he asked himself the 
question, Sutton knew that Buster 
did. 

And he had tried to hide it . . . 
and he had succeeded. He had 
tossed it in with other odds and 
ends, knowing that it would be 
found, but by the man for whom it 
was intended. For the trunk was de- 
liberately made to appear of no im- 
portance. It was old and battered 
and the key was in the lock and it 
said there's nothing important in- 
side, but if you want to waste your 
time, why, go ahead and look. And 
if anyone had looked, the clutter 
would have seemed worthless. 

SUTTON reached out and tapped 
the letter lying on the table. 

John H. Sutton, an ancestor sixty 
centuries removed. His blood runs 
in my veins, though many times 
diluted. But he was a man who 
lived and breathed and ate and died, 
who saw the sunrise against the 
green Wisconsin hills ... if Wis- 
consin had any hills, wherever it 
was. He felt the heat of summer 
and shivered in the cold of winter. 
He worried about many things, both 
big and small and most of them 
would be small, the way worries 
usually are. 

A man like me, although there 
would be minor differences. He had 
a vermiform appendix and it may 
have caused him trouble. He had 
wisdom teeth and they may have 
caused him trouble, too. And he 
probably died at eighty or earlier. 



And when I am eighty, Sutton 
thought, I will be just entering my 
prime. 

But there would be compensa- 
tions. John H. Sutton would have 
lived closer to the Earth, for the 
Earth was all he had. He would have 
been unplagued by alien psychology 
and Earth would have been a living 
place instead of a governing place 
where not a thing is grown for its 
economic worth, not a wheel is 
turned for economic purpose. He 
could have chosen his life work 
from the whole broad field of hu- 
man endeavor instead of being 
forced into governmental work, into 
the job of governing a thin cobweb 
of galactic empire. 

And somewhere, lost now, there 
were Suttons before him, and after 
him — lost, too — many other Sut- 
tons. The chain of life runs smooth- 
ly from one generation to the next, 
and none of the links stands out, 
except, here and there, a link one 
sees by accident. By the accident of 
history, or the accident of myth, or 
the accident of not opening a letter. 

The door bell chimed and Sut- 
ton, startled, scooped up the letter 
and slid it into the inside pocket of 
his coat. 

"Come in," he called. 

It was Herkimer. "Good morning, 
sir," he said. 

Sutton glared at him. "What do 
you want?" 

"I belong to you," Herkimer told 
him blandly. "I'm part of your 
third of Benton's property." 



46 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



"My third. . . ." And then he re- 
membered. 

It was the law. Whoever kills an- 
other in a duel inherits one third 
of the dead man's property. That 
was a law he had forgotten. 

"I hope you don't object," said 
Herkimer.- "I am easy to get along 
with and very quick to learn and I 
like to work. I can cook and sew 
and run errands and I can read and 
write." 

"And put the finger on me." 

"Oh, no, I never would do that." 

"Why not?" 

"Because you are my master." 

"We'll see," Sutton remarked 
sourly. 

"But I'm not all," said Herkimer. 
"There are other things. There's a 
hunting asteroid stocked with the 
finest game, and a spaceship. A small 
one, it's true, but very serviceable. 
There are several thousand dollars 
and an estate out on the West Coast 
and some wildcat planetary develop- 
ment stock and a number of other, 
small things, too numerous to men- 
tion." Herkimer brought out a note- 
book. "I have them written out if 
you would care to listen." 
["Not now," said Sutton. "I have 
work to do." 

Herkimer brightened. "Something 
I could do, no doubt? Something I 
could help with?" 

"Nothing," said Sutton. "I am 
going to see Adams." 

"I could carry your case. That one 
over there." 

"I'm not taking the case." 



"But, sir. ..." * 

"You sit down and fold your 
hands and wait until I get back." 

"I'll get into mischief," the an- 
droid warned. "I just know I will." 

"All right, then, there is some- 
thing you can do. That case you 
mentioned. You can watch it." 

"Yes, sir," said Herkimer, plainly 
disappointed. 

"And don't waste your time trying 
to read what's in it," said Sutton. 
"You won't be able to." 

"Oh," said Herkimer, still more 
disappointed. 

"There's another thing. A girl by 
the name of Eva Armour lives in 
this hotel. Know anything about 
her?" 

HERKIMER shook his head. "But 
I have a cousin. ..." 

"A cousin? An android with a 
cousin?" 

"Yes, sir. She was made in the 
same laboratory as me and that 
makes her my cousin." 

"You have a lot of cousins, then." 

"Yes," said Herkimer, "I have 
many thousands and we stick to- 
gether. Which," he said, very sanc- 
timoniously, "is the way it should 
be with families." 

"You think this cousin might 
know something?" 

Herkimer shrugged. "She works 
in the hotel. She might know some- 
thing." 

Sutton turned to the door. 

"You are to be congratulated, 
sir," said Herkimer. "You gave a 



TIME QUARRY 



47 



very good account of yourself last 
night." 

Sutton turned back to the room. 
"Benton missed," he said. "I 
couldn'bhelp but kill him." 

Herkimer nodded. "But it isn't 
only that, sir. This happens to be 
the first time I ever heard of a man 
being killed by a bullet in the arm." 

"In the arm?" 

"Precisely, sir. The bullet smashed 
his arm, but it didn't touch him 
otherwise. And he died." 



XI 



ADAMS thumbed the lighter and 
waited for the flame to steady. 
His eyes were fixed on Sutton and 
there was no softness in them, but 
there were softness and irritability 
and a faint -unsureness in the man 
himself, hidden well, but undeniably 
there. 

That staring, Sutton told himself, 
is an old trick of his. He glares at 
you and keeps his face frozen like a 
sphinx and if you aren't used to him 
and on to all his tricks, he'll have 
you thinking that he knows every- 
thing. 

But he doesn't do the glaring quite 
as well as he use to do it. There's 
strain in him now and there was no 
strain in him twenty years ago. Just 
granite, and the granite is beginning 
to weather. There's something on his 
mind. There's something that isn't 
going well. 

Adams passed the lighter flame 
over the loaded bowl of his pipe, 



back and forth, deliberately taking 
his time, making Sutton wait. 

"You know, of course," said Sut- 
ton, speaking quietly, "that I can't be 
frank with you." 

The lighter flame snapped off and 
Adams straightened in his chair. 
"Eh?" he asked. 

Sutton grinned mentally. A passed 
pawn, he told himself .- That's what 
Adams is ... a passed pawn. 

He said aloud: "You know by 
now, of course, that I came back in 
a ship that could not fly. You know 
I had no spacesuit and that the ports 
were broken and the hull was rid- 
dled. I had no food and air and 
water, and 61 is eleven light years 
away." 

. Adams nodded bleakly. "Yes, we 
know all that." 

"How I got back or what hap- 
pened to me has nothing to do with 
my report and I don't intend to tell 
you." 

Adams rumbled at him, "Then 
why mention it at all?" 

"Just so you won't ask a lot of 
questions that will get no answer. It 
will save a lot of time." 

Adams leaned back and puffed his 
pipe contentedly. "You were sent out 
to get information, Ash. Any kind 
of information. Anything that would 
make Cygni more understandable. 
You represented 'Earth and you were 
paid by Earth and you surely owe 
Earth something." 

"I owe Cygni something, too," re- 
plied Sutton. "I owe Cygni my life. 
My ship crashed and I was killed." 



48 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 






H 






Adams nodded. "Yes, that is what 
Clark said. He told me you were 
killed. Clark is a space construction 
engineer. Sleeps with ships and 
blueprints. He studied your ship and 
he calculated a graph of force co- 
ordinates. He reported that if you 
were inside the ship when it hit, you 
had to be dead." 

"It's wonderful," said Sutton, drily, 
"what a man can do with figures." 

Adams prodded him again. "An- 
derson said you weren't human." 

"I suppose Anderson could tell 
that by looking at the ship." 

Adams nodded. "No food, nor air. 
It was the logical conclusion for any- 
one to draw." 

Sutton shook his head. "Anderson 
is wrong. If I weren't human, you 
never would have seen me. I would 
not have come back at all. But I was 
homesick for Earth and you were ex- 
pecting a report." 

"You took your time," Adams ac- 
cused. 

"I had to be sure. I had to know. 
I had to be able to come back and 
tell you if the Cygnians were dan- 
gerous or if they weren't." 

"And which is it?" 

"They aren't dangerous." 

ADAMS waited and Sutton was 
silent, 
finally Adams said: "And that is 
all?" 

"That is all," said Sutton. 
Adams tapped his teeth with the 
bit of his pipe. "I'd hate to have to 
send another man out to check up. 



Especially after I had told everyone 
you'd bring back all the data." 

"It wouldn't do any good," said 
Sutton. "No one could get through." 

"You did." 

"Yes, and I was the first. And be- 
cause I was the" first, I also will be 
the last." 

•Across the desk, Adams smiled 
winterly. "You were fond of those 
people, Ash." < 

"They aren't people." 

"Well . . . beings, then." 

"They aren't even beings. It's hard 
to tell you exactly what they* are. 
You'd laugh if I said what I really 
think they are." 

Adams grunted. "Try me." 

"Symbiotic abstractions. That's as 
close as I can come." 

Adams didn't laugh. "You mean 
they really don't exist?" 

"Oh, they exist, all right. They 
form symbiotic relationships that 
help them and their alien hosts. Not 
like parasites, unless maybe like the 
bacteria that release nitrogen in the 
soil for plants to live on. Only the 
bacteria and the plants are separate. 
They and their hosts aren't, and each 
helps the other." 

"But they're abstractions," Adams 
repeated. "They can't exist." 

"Not as we know the word," Sut- 
ton said. "They do, though." 

"And no one can get through 
again?" 

Sutton leaned forward. "Why 
don't -you cross Cygni off your list? 
Pretend it isn't there. There's no 
danger from Cygni. The Cygnians, 



TIME QUARRY 



49 












v 



will never bother Man, and Man will 
never get there again. There's no use 
trying." 

"They aren't mechanical?" 

"No," said Sutton. "An abstrac- 
tion can't be mechanical." 

Adams changed the subject. "How 
jold are you, Ash?" 

"Fifty-nine." 

"Just a kid," said Adams. "Just 
getting started." His pipe had gone 
out and he worried the tobacco with 
his finger, scowling at it. "What do 
you plan to do?" he asked. 

"I have no plans." 

"You want to stay on with the 
Service, don't you?" 

"That depends on how you feel 
about it. I had presumed, of course, 
that you wouldn't want me." 

"We owe you twenty years back 
pay," said Adams, almost kindly. 
"It's waiting for you. You can pick 
it up when you go out. You also have 
three or four years leave coming to 
you. Why don't you take it now?" 

Sutton said nothing. 

"Gome back later on," said Adams. 
"We'll have another talk." 

"I won't change my mind." 

"No one will ask you to." 

Sutton stood up slowly. 

"I'm sorry," Adams said, "that I 
haven't your confidence." 

"I went out to do a job," Sutton 
told him crisply. "I've done thatjob. 
I've made my report." 

"So you have." 

"I suppose," said Sutton, "you will 
keep in touch with me." 

Adams' eyes twinkled grimly. 



"Certainly, Ash. I shall keep in touch 
with you." 

XII 

SUTTON sat quietly in the room 
and forty years were canceled 
from his life. It was like going back 
•all of forty years . . . even to the 
teacups. 

Through the open windows of Dr. . 
Raven's study came young voices and 
the sound of students' feet tramping 
past along the walk. The wind talked 
in the elms and it was a sound with 
which he was familiar. Far off a 
chapel bell tolled and there was girl- % 
ish laughter just across the way. 

Dr. Raven handed him his teacup. 
"I think that I am right. Three 
lumps and no cream." 

"Yes, that's right," said Sutton, 
astonished that he should remember. 

But remembering, he told himself, 
was easy. I seem to be able to remem- 
ber almost everything. As if the old 
habit patterns had been kept bright 
and polished in my mind through all 
the alien years. Waiting, like a set 
of cherished silver standing on a 
shelf, until it was time for them to 
be used again. 

"I remember little things," said 
Dr. Raven. "Little, inconsequential 
things, like how many lumps of 
sugar and what a man said sixty 
years ago, but I don't do so well, 
sometimes, at the big things . . . the 
things a man really should remem- 
ber." 

The white marble fireplace flared 



50 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



. - - 



to the valuted ceiling and the uni- 
versity's coat of arms upon its pol- 
ished face was as bright as the last 
i day Sutton had seen it. 

«T SUPPOSE," he said, "you won- 

X der why I came." 

"Not at all," said Dr. Raven. "All 
my boys come back to see me. And I 
am glad to see them. It makes me 
feel so proud." 

"I've been wondering myself," 
said Sutton. "And I guess I know 
what it is, but it is hard to say." 

"Let's take it easy, then," said Dr. 

Raven. "Remember, the way we used 

'to. We sat and talked around a thing 

and finally, before we knew it, we 

had found the core." 

Sutton laughed shortly. "Yes, I re- 
member, doctor. Fine points of theol- 
ogy. The vital differences in com- 
parative religions. Tell me this. You 
have spent a lifetime at it; you know 
more about religions, Earthly and 
otherwise, than any man on Earth. 
Have you been able to keep one 
: faith? Have you been tempted from 
the teachings of your race?" 

Or. Raven set down his teacup. "I 
might have known you would em- 
barrass me. You used to do it all the 
time. You had the uncanny ability 
to hit exactly on the question that a 
man found hardest to answer." 

"I won't embarrass you any 

longer," Sutton told him. "I take it 

that you have found some good — 

* one might say superior — points in 

alien religions." 

"You found a new religion?" 



"No," said Sutton. "Not a re- 
ligion." 

The chapel bell kept on tolling 
and the girl who had laughed was 
gone. The footsteps along the walk 
were far off in the distance. 

"Have you ever felt," asked Sut- 
ton, "as if you sat on God's right 
hand and heard a thing you knew 
you were never meant to hear?" 

Dr. Raven shook his head. "No, I 
don't think I ever have." 

"If you did, what would you do?" 

"I think," said Dr. Raven, "that I 
might be as troubled by it as you 
are." 

"We've lived by faith alone," said 
Sutton, "for ten thousand years at 
least. More — much more. For it 
must have been a glimmer of some 
sort of faith that made the Nean- 
derthaler paint • corpses' shin bones* 
red and nest the skulls so they faced 
toward the east." 

"Faith," said Dr. Raven gently, 
"is a powerful thing." 

"Yes, powerful," Sutton agreed, 
"but even in its strength it is our 
own confession of weakness. Our 
own admission that we are not strong 
enough to stand alone, that we must 
have a hope and conviction that there 
is some greater power which will 
lend us aid and guidance." 

"You haven't grown bitter, Ash?" 

"Not bitter." 

Somewhere a clock was ticking, 
loud in the sudden hush. 

"Doctor," said Sutton, "what do 
you know of destiny?" 

"It's strange to hear you talk of 



TIME QUARRY 



51 



destiny," said Dr. Raven. "You al- 
ways were a man who never was in- 
clined to bow to destiny." 

"I mean documentary destiny," 
Sutton explained. "Not the abstrac- 
tion, but the actual belief in destiny. 
What do the records say?" 

"There always have been men who 
believed in destiny," said Dr. Raven. 
"Some of them, it would appear, 
with some justification. But mostly 
they, didn't call it destiny. They 
called it luck or a hunch or inspira- 
tion or something else. There have 
been historians who wrote of mani- 
fest destiny, but those were no more 
than words. Of course, there were 
some fanatics who preached destiny, 
but practiced .fatalism." 

"But there is no evidence of a 
thing called destiny? An actual 
force? A living vital thing?" 

Dr. Raven shook his head. "None 
that I know of, Ash. Destiny, after 
all, is just a word. It isn't something 
that you can pin down.. Faith, too, 
at one time may have been no more 
than a word, just as destiny is to- 
day. But millions of people and thou- 
sands of years made it a real force, 
a thing that can be defined and in- 
voked and lived by." 

"But hunches and luck," protest- 
ed Sutton. "Those are just happen- 
stance." 

"They might be glimmerings of 
destiny," Dr. Raven declared. 
"Flashes showing through. A hint of 
a broad stream of happening be- 
havior. One cannot know, of course. 
Man is always blind until he has the 



facts. Turning points in history have 
rested on a hunch. Inspired belief in 
one's own ability has changed the 
course of events more times than one 
can count." 

He rose and walked to a book 
case, stood with his head tilted back. 

"Somewhere," he said, "if I can 
find it, there is a book." 

He searched and did not find it. 

"No matter," he declared, "I'll 
run onto it later if you are still in- 
terested. It tells about an old African 
tribe with a" strange belief. They be- 
lieved that each man's spirit' or con- 
sciousness or ego or whatever you 
may call it had a partner, a counter- 
part on some distant star. If I re- 
member rightly, they even knew 
which star and could point it out 
in the evening sky." 

He turned around from the book 
case and looked evenly at Sutton. 

"That might be destiny, you 
know," he said. "It might, very well, 
at that." 

He crossed the room to stand in 
front of the cold fireplace,' hands 
locked behind his back, silver head 
tilted to one side. 

"Why are you so interested in 
destiny?" he asked. 

"Because I found destiny," said 
Sutton. 

XIII 

THE face in the visiplate was 
masked and Adams spoke ' in 
chilly anger: "I do not receive 
masked calls." 



52 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



"You will this one," said the 
voice from behind the mask. "I am 
the man you talked to on the patio. 
Remember?" 

"Calling from the future, I pre- 
sume," said Adams. 

"No, I am still in your time. I 
have been watching you." 

"Watching Sutton, too?" 

The masked head nodded. "You 
have seen him now. What do you 
think?" 

"He's hiding something," Adams 
said. "And not all of him is hu- 
man." 

"You're going to have him 
killed?" 

"No," said Adams. "No, I don't 
think I will. He knows something 
that we need to know. And we 
won't get it out of him by killing." 

"What he knows," said the 
masked voice, "is better dead with 
the man. who knows it." 

"Perhaps," said Adams, "we 
could come to an understanding if 
you would tell me what this is all 
about." 

"I can't tell you, Adams. I wish I 
could. I can't tell you the future." 

"And until you do," snapped 
Adams, "I won't let you change the 
past." 

And he was thinking: The man 
is scared and almost desperate. He 
could kill Sutton any time he wished, 
but he is afraid to do it. Sutton has 
to be killed by a man of his own 
time . . . literally has to be, for 
time may not tolerate the intrusion 
of violence from future to past. 



"By the way," said the future 
man, "how are things on Aldebaran 
XH?" 

ADAMS sat rigid in his chair, an- 
ger naming in him. 

"If it hadn't been for Sutton," 
said the masked man, "there would 
have been no incident on Aldebaran 
XII." 

"But Sutton wasn't back yet," 
argued Adams. His voice ran down, 
for he remembered something. The 
name upon the fly leaf . . . by Asher 
Sutton. "Look, tell me. For the love 
of heaven, if you have anything to 
tell, tell it." 

"You mean to say you haven't 
guessed what it might be?" 

Adams shook his head. 

"It's war," the voice said. 

"But there is no war." > 

"Not in your time." 

"But how—" 

"Remember Michaelson?" 

"The man who went a second 
into time." 

The masked head nodded and the 
screen went blank. Adams sat and 
felt the chill of horror trickle 
through his body. 

The visor buzzer purred at him 
and mechanically he snapped the 
toggle over. 

It was Nelson in the screen. "Sut- 
ton just left the university. He spent 
an hour with Dr. Raven. In case 
you don't recall, Dr. Raven is a 
professor of comparative religions." 

"Oh," said Adams. "Oh, so that 
is it. 



TIME QUARRY 



53 



He tapped his fingers on the desk, 
half irritated, half frightened. 

It would be a shame, he thought, 
to kill a man like Sutton. 

But it might be best. 

Yes, he told himself, it might be 
for the best. 

XIV 

THE road curved ahead, a silver 
strip shining in the moonlight, 
and the sounds and smells of night 
lay across the land. The sharp, clean 
smell of growing things, the mys- 
tery smell of water. A creek ran 
through the marsh that lay off to 
the right, and Sutton, from behind 
the wheel, caught the flashing hint 
of winding, moonlit water as he 
took a curve. Peeping frogs made a 
veil of pixy sound that hugged 
against the hills, and fireflies were 
swinging lanterns that signaled 
through the dark. 

Clark said that Sutton had died, 
and Clark was an engineer. He had 
made a graph and mathematics 
stated that certains strains and 
stresses would inevitably kill a man. 

And Anderson had said Sutton 
wasn't human, and how was Ander- 
son to know? 

How, asked Sutton, unless he ex- 
amined me? Unless he was the one 
who tried to probe into my mind 
after I had been knocked out when 
I walked into my room? 

Adams had tipped his hand and 
Adams never tipped his hand un- 
less he wanted one to see. He wanted 



me to know, Sutton told himself. 
He wanted me to know, but he 
couldn't tell me. He couldn't tell 
me he had me down on tape and 
film, that he was the one who had 
rigged up the room. 

But he could let me know by 
making just one slip, a carefully cal- 
culated slip, like the one on Ander- 
son. He knew that I would catch and 
he thinks he can jitter me. 

The headlights caught, momentar- 
ily, the gray-black massive lines of 
a house that huddled on a hillside, 
and then there was another curve. 
A nightbird, black and ghostly, flut- 
tered across the road and the shadow 
of its flight danced down the cone 
of light. 

Adams was the one who was wait- 
ing for me. He knew, somehow, 
that I was coming, and he was ready. 
He had me tagged and ticketed be- 
fore I hit the ground, and he gave 
me a going over before I knew what 
was going on. 

And undoubtedly he found a 
whole lot more than he bargained 
for. 

Sutton chuckled drily. And the 
chuckle merged into a scream that 
came slanting down the hill slope 
in a blaze of streaming fire ... a 
rush of flame that ended in the 
marsh, that died down momentarily, 
then licked out in blue 'and red. 

Brakes hissed and tires screeched 
on the pavement as Sutton slued the 
car around to bring it to a stop. 
Even before the machine came to a 
halt, he was out the door and run- 



54 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



ning down the slope toward the 
strange, black craft that flickered in 
the swamp. 

Water sloshed around his ankles 
and knife-edged grass slashed at his 
leg. The puddles gleamed black and 
oily in the light from the flaming 
craft. The frogs still strained their 
hoarse throats at the far edge of the 
marsh. 

Something flopped and struggled 
in a pool of muddy, flame-stained 
water just a few feet from the burn- 
ing ship. Sutton, plunging forward, 
caught the gleaming white of fright- 
ened, piteous eyeballs shining in the 
flame as the man lifted himself on 
his mud-caked arms and tried to 
drag his body forward. He saw the 
flash of teeth as pain twisted the 
face into grisly anguish. And his 
nostrils caught the smell of charred, 
crisped flesh. 

He stooped and locked his hands 
beneath the armpits of the man, 
hauled him upright, dragged him 
back across ,the swamp. Mud sucked 
at his feet and he heard the splash- 
ing behind him, the horrible* drag- 
ging splash of the other's body trail- 
ing through the water and the slime. 

There was dry land beneath his 
feet and he began the climb back up 
the slope toward the car. Sounds 
came from the bobbing head of the 
man he carried, thick, slobbering 
sounds that might have been words. 

Sutton cast a quick glance over 
his shoulder * . and saw the flames 
mounting straight into the sky, a 
pillar of blue that lighted up the 



night. Marsh birds, roused from 
their nests, flew blinded and in 
squawking panic through the garish 
light. 

"The atomics," said Sutton, aloud. 
"The atomics. ..." 

They couldn't hold for long in a " 
flame like that. The automatics 
would melt down and the marsh 
would suddenly be a crater and the 
hills would be charred from horizon 
to horizon. 

"No," said the bobbing head. 
"No ... no atomics." 

Sutton's foot caught in a root and 
he stumbled to his knees. The body 
of the man slid from his mud-caked 
grasp. The man struggled, trying to 
turn over. Sutton helped him and he- 
lay on his back, his face toward the 
sky. 

He was young, Sutton saw, a 
youth beneath the mask of mud and 
pain. 

"No atomics," said the man. "I 
dumped them." 

THERE was pride in the words, 
pride in a job well done. But 
the words had cost him heavily. 
Sutton saw the blood pumping 
through the temples beneath the 
burned and twisted skin. The man's 
jaw worked and words came out, 
limping, tangled words. 

"There was a battle . . . back in 
'83 ... I saw him coming . . . tried 
to time- jump. ..." The words 
gurgled and got lost, then gushed 
out again. "Got new guns . . . set 
metal afire. . . ." 



TIME QUARRY 



55 



He turned his head and appar- 
ently saw Sutton for the first time. 
He started up. "Asher Sutton!" The 
two words were a whisper. 

For a moment Sutton caught the 
triumphant, almost fanatic gleam 
that washed across the eyes of the 
dying man, wondered at the gesture 
of the half-raised arm, at the cryptic 
sign that the fingers made. 

Then the gleam faded and the 
arm dropped back and the fingers 
separated. 

Sutton knew, even before he bent 
with his head turned against the 
heart, that* the man was dead. 



Slowly Sutton stood up. The flame 
was dying down and the birds had 
gone. The craft lay almost buried 
in the mud, and its lines, he noted, 
were none he had ever seen. 

Asher Sutton, the man had said. 
And his eyes had lighted up and he 
had made a sign just before he died. 
And there had been a battle back 
in '83. 

Eighty-three what? 

The man had tried to time-jump 
. . . who had ever heard of a time 
jump? 

I never saw the man before, said 
Sutton. So help me, I don't know 




56 



GALAXY SCIENCfe FICTEON 



him even now. And yet he cried my 
name and it sounded as if he knew 
me and ,was very glad to see me and 
he made a sign ... a sign that went 
with the name. 

He stared down at the dead man 
lying at his feet and saw the pity of 
it, the crumpled legs, the stiffened 
arms, the lolling head and the flash 
of moonlight on the teeth where the 
mouth had fallen open. 

Carefully, Sutton went down on 
his knees, ran his hands over the 
body, seeking something . . . some 
bulging pocket that might give a 
clue to the man who lay there dead. 

•Because he knew me. And I must 
know how he knew me. And none 
of it makes sense. 

There was a small book in the 
breast pocket of the coat and Sutton 
slipped it out. The title was in gold 
upon black leather, and even in the 
moonlight Sutton could read the let- 
ters that flamed from the cover: 

THIS IS DESTINY 
By 

Asher Sutton 



Sutton did not move. He .crouched 
there on the ground, like a cowering 
thing, stricken by-the golden letters 
on the leather cover. 

A book! 

A book he meant to write, but. 
hadn't written yet! 

A book he wouldn't write for 
many months to come! 

And yet here it was, dog-eared 
and limp from reading. 

He felt the chill of the fog rising 
from the marsh, the loneliness of a 
wild bird's crying. 

A strange ship had plunged into 
the marsh, disabled and burning. A 
man had escaped from the ship, but 
on the verge of death. Before he 
died he had recognized Sutton and 
had called his name. In his pocket 
he had a book that was not even 
written. 

Those were the facts. There was 
no explanation. 

Faint sounds of human voices 
drifted down the night and Sutton 
rose swiftly to his feet, stood poised 
and waiting, listening. The voices 
came again. 




TIME QUARRY 



57 



Someone had heard the crash anjl 
was coming to investigate, coming 
down the road, calling to others who 
also had heard the crash. 

Sutton turned and walked swiftly 
up the slope to the car. 

There was, he told himself, no 
Earthly use of waiting. Those com- 
ing down the road might know the 
answers to his baffling questions — 
but they wouldn't tell him. Nobody 
seemed willing to tell him anything. 
He had to find out the answers him- 
self. 

XV 

* 

A MAN was waiting in the clump 
of lilac bushes across the road 
and there was another one crouched 
in the shadow of the courtyard wall. 

Sutton walked slowly forward, 
strolling, taking his time. 

"Johnny," he said, soundlessly. 

"Yes, Ash." 

"That is all there are? Just those 
two?" 

"I think there is another one, but 
I can't place him. All of them are 
armed." 

Sutton felt the stir of comfort in 
his brain, the sense of self-assurance, 
the sense of aid and comradeship. 

"Keep me posted, Johnny." 

He whistled a bar or two, from 
a tune that had been forgotten long 
ago, but still was fresh in his mind 
from twenty years before. 

The rent-a-car garage was two 
blocks up the road, the Orion Arms 
two blocks farther down. Between 
him and the Arms were two men, 



waiting with guns. Two and maybe "- 
more. 

Between the garage and hotel was 
nothing . . . just the landscaped 
beauty that was a residential, ad- 
ministrative Earth. An Earth dedi- 
cated to beauty and to ruling . . . 
planted with a garden's, care, every 
inch of it mapped out by landscape 
architects with clumps of shrubs and 
lanes of trees and carefully tended 
flower beds. 

An ideal place, Sutton told him- 
self*, for an ambush. 

Adams? he wondered. Although 
it hardly could be Adams. He had 
something that Adams expected to 
find out, and killing the man who 
holds information that you want, no 
matter how irate you may be at him, 
is downright useless. 

Or those others that Eva had told 
him of . . . the ones who had Ben- 
ton psychologically conditioned to 
kill him. They tied in better than 
Adams did, for Adams wanted him 
to stay alive and these others, who- 
ever they might be, were quite con- 
tent to kill him. 

He dropped his hand in his coat 
pocket as if searching for a cigarette 
and his ringers touched the steel of 
the gun he had used on Benton. He 
let his fingers wrap around it "and 
then took his hand out of the pocket 
and found the cigarettes in another 
pocket. 

Not time yet, he told himself. 
Time later on to use the gun, if he 
had to use it — if he had a chance 
to use it. 



58 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



He stopped to light the cigarette, 
playing for time. The gun would be 
a poor weapon, he knew, but better 
than none at all. In the dark, he 
probably couldn't hit the broad side 
of a house^ but it would make a 
noise and the waiting men were 
not counting on noise. If they hadn't 
minded noise, they could have 
stepped out minutes ago and shot 
him down. 

"Ash," said Johnny, "there is an- 
other man. Just in that bush ahead. 
He expects to let you pass and then 
they'll have you caught in an ambush 
three ways." 

SUTTON grunted. "Good, tell me 
exactly/' 

"The bush with the white flow- 
ers. -He's on this edge of it. Quite 
close to the walk, so he can step 
around and be behind you when you 
pass." 

Sutton puffed on the cigarette, 
making it glow like a red eye in the 
dark. 

"Shall we take him, Johnny?" 

"Yes, before we're taken." 

Sutton resumed his stroll and now 
he saw the bush, four paces away, 
no more. 

One step. 

I wonder what it's all about. 

Two steps. 

Cut out your wondering. Act now 
and do your wondering later. 

Three steps. 

There he is. I see him. 

Sutton was off the walk in a sud- 
den leap. The gun whipped out of 



his pocket and it talked, two quick, 
ugly words. 

The man behind the bush bent 
forward to his knees, swayed there 
for a moment, then flattened on his 
face. His gun fell from his fingers 
and in a single swoop, Sutton 
scooped it up. It was, he saw, an 
electronic device, a vicious thing that 
could kill (even with a near miss, due 
to the field of distortion that its beam 
set up. A gun like that had been new 
and secret twenty years ago, but now, 
apparently, anyone could get it. 

Gun in hand, Sutton wheeled and 
ran, twisting through the shrubbery, 
ducking overhanging branches, plow- 
ing through a tulip bed. Out of the 
corner of one eye, he caught a 
twinkle . . . the twinkling breath of 
a silent flaming gun, and the dancing 
path of silver that it sliced into the 
night. 

He plunged through a ripping, 
tearing hedge, waded a stream, found 
himself in a clump of evergreen and 
birch. He stopped to get his breath, 
staring back over the way that he 
had come. 

The countryside lay quiet and 
peaceful, a silvered picture painted 
by the moon. No one and nothing 
stirred. The gun long ago had ceased 
its flickering. 

Johnny's warning came suddenly: 
"Ash! Behind you. Friendly . . ." 

Sutton wheeled, gun half lifted. 

Herkimer was running in the 
moonlight, like a hound hunting for 
a trace. "Mr. Sutton, sir . . ."' 

"Yes, Herkimer." 



TIME QUARRY 



59 









"We have to ran for it." 

"Yes," said Sutton, "I suppose we 
have. I walked into a trap. There 
were three of them laying for me." 

"It's worse than that," said Herki- 
mer. "It's worse even -than you 
think. It's not only Morgan, but it's 
Adams, too." 

"Adams?" 

"He has given orders that you are 
to be killed on sight." 

Sutton stiffened. "How do you 
know?" 

"The girl,' said Herkimer. "Eva. 
The one you asked about. She told 
me." 

Herkimer walked forward, stood 
face to face with Sutton. 

"You have to trust me, sir. You 
said this morning I'd put the finger 
on you, but I never would. I was 
with you from the very first." 

"But the girl," said Sutton. 

"Eva is with you, ""too, sir. We 
started searching for you as soon as 
we found out, but we were too late 



to catch you. Eva is waiting with the 
ship." 

"A ship," Sutton grimly repeated. 
"A ship and everything." 

"It's your own ship, sir. The one 
you received from Benton's estate 
with the hunting asteroid and me." 

Sutton scowled. "And you think 
I'm stupid enough to come with you 
and get into this ship and . . ." 

"No, sir, I didn't think so," said 
Herkimer. "I'm sorry." 

He moved so fast that Sutton 
couldn't do a thing. 

He saw the fist coming and he 
tried to raise his gun. He felt the 
sudden fury grow cold within his 
brain. But that was before there was 
a sudden crushing impact. His head 
snapped back so that for a moment, 
before his eyelids closed, he saw the 
wheel of stars against a spinning sky. 
He felt his knees buckle under him. 

He was out, stone cold, when his 
body hit the ground. 

—CLIFFORD D. SIMAK 



CONTINUED NEXT MONTH 



A Genuine Science Fiction 

CONTEST 

With Down-to-Mars Science Fiction Prizes! 

See Page 67 for Willy Ley's provocative introduction 

Page 70 for Contest Rules 
AND DON'T MISS THE LIST OF PRIZES ON PAGE 71 



60 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 






I' 



By 

RICHARD 

MATHESON 




THIRD FROM THE SUN 



Escaping a known danger is highly advisable 
•••if you can know the unknown dangerahead! 



HIS EYES were open five 
seconds before the alarm 
was set to go off. There 
was no effort in waking. It was sud- 
den. Coldly conscious, he reached 
out his left hand in the dark and 
pushed in the stop. The alarm 
glowed a second, then faded. 

At his side, his wife put her hand 
on his arm. 

'"Did you sleep?" he asked. 

"No, did you?" 

"A little," he said. "Not much." 

She was silent for a few seconds. 
He heard her throat contract. She 
shivered. He knew what she was 
going to say. 

"We're still going?" she asked. 



He twisted his shoulders on the 
bed and took a deep breath. 

"Yes," he said, and felt her 
fingers tighten on his arm. 

"What time is it?" she asked. 

"About five." 

"We'd better get ready." 

"Yes, we'd better." 

They made no move. 

"You're sure we can get on the 
ship without anyone noticing?" she 
asked. 

"They think it's just another test 
flight. Nobody will be checking." 

She didn't say anything. She 
moved a little closer to him. He felt 
how cold her skin was. 

"I'm afraid," she said. 



THIRD FROM THE SUN 



61 



He took her hand and held it in 
a tight grip. "Don't be," he said. 
"Well be safe." 

"Its the children I'm worried 
about." 

"We'll be safe," he repeated. 

She lifted his hand to her lips and 
kissed it gently. 

"All right," she said. 

They both sat Up in the darkness. 
He heard her stand. Her night gar- 
ment rustled to the floor. She didn't 
pick it up. She stood still, shivering 
in the cold morning air. 

"You're sure we don't need any- 
thing else with us?" she asked. 

"No, nothing. I have all the sup- 
plies we need in the ship. Any- 
way. . . ." 

"What?" 

"We can't carry anything past the 
guard," he said. "He has to think 
you and the kids are just coming to 
see me off." 

SHE began dressing. He threw off 
the covering and got up. He 
went across the cold floor to the 
closet and dressed. 

"I'll get the children up," she 
said, "if they aren't already." He 
grunted, pulling clothes over his 
head. At the door she stopped. 
"Are you sure — " she began. 

"Hm?" 

"Won't the guard think it's funny 
that . . . that our neighbors are 
coming down to see you off, too?" 

He sank down on the bed and 
fumbled for the clasps on his shoes. 

"We'll have to take that chance," 



he said. "We need them with us." 

She sighed. "It seems so cold. So 
calculating." 

He straightened up and saw her 
silhouette in the doorway. 

"What else can we do?" he 
asked tensely. "We can't interbreed 
our own children." 

"No," she said. "It's just " 

"Just what?" 

"Nothing, darling. I'm sorry." 

She closed the door. Her footsteps 
disappeared down the hall. The door 
to the children's room opened. He 
heard their two voices. A cheerless 
smile raised his lips. You'd think it 
was a holiday, he thought. 

He pulled on his shoes. At least" 
the kids didn't know what was hap- 
pening. They thought they were go- 
ing to take him down to the field. 
They thought they'd come back and 
tell all their schoolmates. They didn't 
know they'd never come back. 

He finished clasping his shoes 
and stood up. He shuffled over to the 
bureau and turned on the light. He 
looked at himself in the mirror. It 
was odd, such an undistinguished 
looking man planning this. 

Gold. Calculating. Her words 
filled his mind again. Well, there 
was no other way. In a few years, 
probably less, the whole planet 
would go up with a blinding flash. 
This was the only way out. Escaping, 
starting all over again with a few 
people on a new planet. 

He stared at the reflection. 

"There's no other way," he said. 

He glanced around the bedroom. 



62 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



Good-by, this part of my life. Turn- 
ing off the lamp was like turning off 
a light in his mind. He closed the 
door gently behind him and slid his 
fingers off the worn handle. 

His son and daughter were going 
down the ramp. They were talking 
in mysterious whispers. He shook his 
head in slight amusement. 

His wife waited for him. They 
went down together, holding hands. 

"I'm not afraid, darling," she 
said. "It'll be all right." 

"Sure," he said. "Sure it will." 

They all went in to eat. He sat 
- down with his children. His wife 
poured out juice for them. Then she 
went to get the food. 

"Help your mother, doll," he told 
his daughter. She got up. 

"Pretty soon, haah, pop?" his son 
said. "Pretty soon, haah?" 

"Take it easy," he cautioned. "Re- 
member what I told you. If you say 
a word of it to anybody, I'll have to 
leave you behind." 

A dish shattered on the floor. He 
darted a glance at his wife. She was 
staring at him, her lips trembling. 

She averted her eyes and bent 
down. She fumbled at the pieces, 
picked up a few. Then she dropped 
them all, stood up and pushed them 
against the wall with her shoe. 

"As if it mattered," she said nerv- 
ously. "As if it mattered whether 
* the place is clean or not." 

The children were watching her in 
surprise. 

"What is it?" asked the daughter. 

"Nothing, darling, nothing," she 



said. "I'm just nervous. Go back to 
the table. Drink your juice. We have 
to eat quickly. The neighbors will 
be here soon." 

"Pop, why are the neighbors com- 
ing with us?" asked his son. 

"Because," he said vaguely. "Be- 
cause they want to. Now forget it. 
Don't talk about it so much." 

THE room was quiet. His wife 
brought over their food and set 
it down. Only her footsteps broke the 
silence. The children kept glancing 
at each other, at their father. He 
kept his eyes on his plate. The food 
tasted thick and flat in his mouth 
and he felt his heart thudding 
against the wall of his chest. Last 
day. This is the last day. It felt like 
a silly, dangerous plan. 

"You d better eat," he told his 
wife. 

She sat down and began to eat 
mechanically, without enthusiasm. 
Suddenly the door buzzer sounded. 
The eating utensil skidded out of 
her nerveless fingers and clattered on 
the floor. He reached out quickly 
and put his hand on hers. 

"All right, darling," he said. "It's 
all right." He turned to the children. 
"Go answer the door," he told them. 

"Both of us?" his daughter asked. 

"Both of you." 

"But. . . ." 

"Do as I say." 

They slid off their chairs and left 
the room, glancing back at their 
parents. 

When the sliding door shut off 



THIRD FROM THE SUN 



63 



their view, he turned back to his 
wife. Her face was pale and tight; 
she had her lip's pressed together. 

"Darling, please," he said. "Please. 
You know I wouldn't take you if I 
wasn't sure it was safe. You know 
how many times I've flown the ship 
before. And I know just where 
we're going. It's safe. Believe me, 
it's safe." 

SHE pressed his hand against her 
cheek. She closed her eyes and 
large tears ran out under her lids and 
down her cheeks. 

"It's not that so m-much," she 
said. "It's just . . . leaving, never 
coming back. We've been here all 
our lives. It isn't like . . . like mov- 
ing. We can't come back. Ever." 

"Listen, darling," his voice was 
tense- and hurried, "you know as 
well as I do. In a matter of years, 
maybe less, there's going to be an- 
other war, a terrible one. There 
won't be a thing left. We have to 
leave. For our children, for our- 
selves. .'. ." 

He paused, testing the words in 
his mind. 

"For the future of life itself," he 
finished weakly. He was sorry he 
said it. Early on a prosaic morning, 
over everyday food, that kind of talk 
didn't sound right. Even if it was 
true. 

"Just don't be afraid," he said. 
"We'll be all right." 

She squeezed his hand. 

"I know," she said quietly. "I 
know." 



There were footsteps coming to- 
ward them. He pulled out a tissue 
and gave it to her. She hastily dabbed 
at her face. 

The door slid open. The neigh- 
bors and their son and daughter 
came in. The children were excited. 
They had trouble keeping it down. 

"Good morning," the neighbor 
said. 

The neighbor's wife went to his 
wife and the two of them went over 
by the window and talked in low 
voices. The children stood around, 
fidgeted, and looked nervously at 
each other. 

"You've eaten?" he asked his 
neighbor. 

"Yes," his neighbor said. "Don't 
you think we'd better be going?" 

"I suppose so," he said. 

They left all the dishes on the 
table. His wife went upstairs and got 
outer garments for the family. 

He and his wife stayed on the 
porch a moment while the rest went 
out to the ground car. 

"Should we lock the door?" he 
asked. 

She smiled helplessly and ran a 
hand through her hair. She shrugged 
helplessly. "Does it matter?" 

He locked the door and followed 
her down the walk. She turned as he 
came up to her. 

"It's a nice house," she murmured. 

"Don't think about it," he said. 

They turned their backs on their 
home and got in the ground car. 

"Did you lock it?" asked the 
neighbor. 



64 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



"Yes." 

The neighbor smiled wryly. "So 
did we," he said. "I tried not to, but 
then I had to go back." 

They moved through the quiet 
streets. The edges of the sky were 
beginning to redden. The neighbor's 
wife and the four children were in 
back. His wife and the neighbor 
were in front with him. 

"Going to be a nice day," said his 
neighbor. 

"I suppose so," he said. 

"Have you told your children?" 
the neighbor asked softly. 

"Of course not." ' 

"I haven't, I haven't," insisted his 
neighbor. "I was just asking." 

"Oh." „ 

They rode in silence a while. 

"Do you ever get the feeling 
that we're . . . running out?" asked 
the neighbor. 

He tightened. "No," he said. 
"No! We're the ones who were run 
out on — all of us." 

"I guess it's better not to talk 
about it," his neighbor said hastily. 

"Much better," he said. 

As they drove up to the guard- 
house at the gate, he turned to the 
back. 

"Remember," he said, "not a 
word from any of you." 

THE guard, sleepy and not caring 
much, recognized him right 
away as the chief test pilot for the 
new ship. That was enough. The 
family was coming down to watch 
him off, he told the guard. No ob- 



jection. The guard let them drive to 
the ship's platform. 7 

The car stopped under the huge 
columns. They all got out and stared 
up. 

Far above them, its nose pointed 
toward the sky, the great metal ship 
was just beginning to reflect the 
early morning glow. 

"Let's go," he said. "Quickly." 

As they hurried toward the ships 
elevator, he stopped for a moment 
to look back. The guard house 
looked deserted. He looked around 
at everything and tried to fix it all 
in his memory. 

He bent over and picked up some 
dirt. He put it in his pocket. 

"Good-bye," he whispered. 

He ran to the elevator. 

The doors shut in front of them. 
There was no sound in the rising 
cubicle but the hum of the motor 
and a few self-consci«us coughs 
from the children. He looked down 
at them. To have to leave so young, 
he thought, unable to help. 

He closed his eyes. His wife's 
hand rested on his arm. He looked 
at her. Their eyes met and she 
smiled at him. 

"And I thought it would be diffi- 
cult," she whispered. 

The elevator shuddered to a 
stop. The doors slid open and they 
went out. It was getting lighter. He 
hurried them along the enclosed 
platform. 

They all climbed through the naLt- 
row doorway in the ship's side. He 
hesitated before following them. He 



THIRD FROM THE SUN 



65 



wanted to say something fitting the 
moment. It burned in him to say 
something fitting the moment. 
There wasn't a thing to say. 

HE SWUNG in and grunted as 
he pulled the door shut and 
turned the wheel tight. 

"That's it," he said. "Come on, 
everybody." 

Their* footsteps echoed on the 
metal decks and ladders as they 
went up to the control room. 

The children ran to the ports and 
looked out. They gasped when they 
saw how high they were. Their 
mothers stood behind them, looking 
down at the ground. Their eyes 
were frightened. The children's 
were not. 

"So high," said his daughter. 

He patted her head gently. "So 
high," he repeated. 

Then he. turned abruptly and went 
over to the instrument panel. He 
stood there, hesitantly. He heard 
someone come up behind him. 

"Shouldn't we tell the children?" 
asked his wife. "Shouldn't we let 
them know it's their last look?" 

"Go ahead," he said. 

He waited to hear her footsteps. 
There were none. He turned. She 
kissed him on the cheek. Then she 
went to tell the children. 

He threw over the switch. Deep 
in the belly of the ship, a spark 
ignited the fuel. A concentrated 
rush of gas flooded from the vents. 
The bulkheads began to shake. 

He heard his daughter crying. He 



tried not to listen, extended a trem- 
bling hand toward the lever, then 
glanced back suddenly. They were 
all staring at him. He put his hand 
on the lever and threw it over. 

The ship quivered a brief second 
and then they felt it rush along the 
smooth incline. It flashed into the 
air, faster and faster. They all heard 
the wind rushing past. 

He watched the children turn to 
the ports and look out again. 

"Good-bye," they said. 

He sank down wearily at the con- 
trol panel. Out of the corner of his 
eye he saw his neighbor sit down 
next to him. 

"You know just where we're go- 
ing?" his neighbor asked. 

"On that chart there." 

His neighbor looked at the chart. 
His eyebrows wiggled in surprise. 

"Another solar system?" 

"That's right. There's a planet 
there with an oxygen atmosphere 
that can support our kind of life. 
We'll probably have it all to our- 
selves. No hatred. No war." 

"We'll be safe," his neighbor 
said. "And the race will be safe." 

He nodded and looked back at 
his and his neighbor's family. They 
were still staring out the ports. 

"I said," his neighbor repeated, 
"which one of these planets is it?" 

He leaned over the chart, pointed. 
"That small one there," he said. 

"This one, third from the sun?" 

"That's .. right," he said. "The 
green planet with the single moon." 

—RICHARD MATHESON 



66 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 




INTRODUCING A GREAT SCIENCE FICTION CONTEST 



FLYING SAUCERS 

Friend/ Foe or Fantasy? 



By WILLY LEY 

THE editors of GALAXY 
Science Fiction have asked 
me to open the Flying Saucer 
Season by sniffing out the scent of 
the quarry, to be followed by as 
many bloodhound readers as may - 
wish to join in the hunt. 

Fine. I approve of the hunt. 
Neither a cynical nor a credulous 
attitude is justified in considering 
the Flying Saucer mystery. For one 
thing, about four hundred eyewit- 
ness reports have been collected. If 
we say that the average number of 
witnesses per case was three, about 
1,200 persons claim to have seen 
these objects. One has to assume, 
therefore, where there is so much 
smoke, there must be fire somewhere. 
(Possibly several fires, for the per- 



sons who claim to have seen "un-. 
identified objects" (to use a neutral 
term) do not agree as to size and 
shape. There is no question that 
most of the witnesses told the truth 
as they thought they saw it, and 
what they saw, or thought they saw, 
clearly falls into three groups: 
Group One: — 

Lights in the sky, generally round 
and without anything visible at- 
tached to them, sometimes "flying in 
formation," reminiscent of those 
strange "fiery balls" which Allied 
pilots saw near the wingtips of their 
airplanes during the last few weeks 
of World War II in Europe. They 
were called "Foo Fighters" and be- 
lieved to be a secret German weapon 
— but they never did anything. 



FLYING SAUCERS . . . FRIEND. FOE OR FANTASY? 



*7 






Group Two: — 

Round or oval objects that looked 
metallic, flying at high speed, gen- 
erally at a very high altitude, esti- 
mates of size ranging from 30 to 
300 feet in diameter. 
Group Three: — 

Rocket-shaped craft -without 
wings, larger in size than known 
military and research craft, doubly 
strange because they were seen in 
areas far away from rocket testing 
- grounds, where experiments of such 
type might be conducted. 

The fact that the observers do not 
agree makes it unlikely that one 
over-all explanation will fit every 
case. By a convenient coincidence, 
the explanations advanced^ so far 
also fall into three categories . . . 
or four, if you want to include the 
idea that they might be Russian 
missiles, which I discount from the 
outset. Even before China turned 
communist, the Soviet Union had 
roughly three times the land area of 
the United States. It has room 
enough to test new weapons without 
using our hemisphere. And if it did 
have such swift and powerful mis- 
siles, the cold war would have grown 
hot some time ago. 

THE three other explanations are: 
(1) that the witnesses saw phe- 
nomena which are known, but not 
known to them; (2) that the Saucers 
are a secret American development; 
(3) that they are spaceships from an- 
other planet. 

The first explanation probably ac- 



counts for a large percentage of the 
reports, those originating from peo- 
ple not professionally connected 
with aeronautics, meteorology and 
related sciences. They may have seen 
radar targets, Navy "skyhook" bal- 
loons which are of huge size, rare 
cloud formations, and even, on occa- 
sion, actual meteorites, without be- 
ing able to identify them. Personally, 
I believe that the few reports of 
"luminous disks flying in forma- 
tion," especially, are due to such a 
mistake. Meteorological instruments 
normally are carried by one balloon, 
but in special cases, clusters of five, 
six or more balloons are used. I con- 
sider it possible that such a balloon 
cluster, at maximum altitude (which 
means that the balloons are ex- 
panded to bursting point and there- 
fore almost transparent) could pro- 
duce an optical effect on a lower 
cloud layer which would look like 
luminous disks in formation. 

The second explanation has two 
advantages. It is the easiest and also 
the most pleasant to believe in. The 
assumption that the disks are a U. S. 
military development which should 
not have been seen in the first place 
seems to explain why the attitude of 
official* quarters ranges from semi- 
silence to outright debunking. It 
does, however, have a major dis- 
advantage — it is very hard to imag- 
ine why a military missile should be 
given this peculiar shape. 

The third explanation, cham- 
pioned by Donald Keyhoe in maga- 
zine and book analyses, is also quite 



68 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



• 



appealing, particularly to the-.science 
fiction faithful. If the disks were 
spaceships from another planet, one 
can easily think of a number of 
reasons why they have avoided any 
contact with us. The atmospheric 
pressure of Earth, for example, 
might be too high — or too low — for 
them. Perhaps there is too much 
moisture in our air. They might 
need more ultra-violet light than 
they would get here below the ozone 
layer, which is at about 100,000 
foot altitude. 

The third explanation would also 
clarify a number of very old reports 
of "airships" dating back even be- 
fore the invention of the balloon. 
But that explanation also suffers 
from a drawback. While we prob- 
ably cannot yet build an atomic- 
powered rocket, we do have some 
idea of what such an atomic rocket 
motor could do. And then it turns 
out that a 30-foot disk, even with 
a super-excellent atomic reaction 
engine, could barely make the moon, 
and a 300-foot disk might just get 
to either Mars or Venus. 

VENUS, of course, has an atmos- 
phere through which no as- 
tronomer has yet looked, but we 
have reasons to believe that the cli- 
mate below that impenetrable at- 
mosphere is not congenial to living 
beings with a body chemistry like 
ours, not to say intelligent beings. 

Mars has a thin and completely 
transparent atmosphere,* but if it 
had inhabitants which could build 



atomic-powered space -craft, we 
should see some other activity, too. 
And it is at least doubtful whether 
anybody ever * did, since the phe- 
nomena observed on Mars can be 
explained more believably as nat- 
ural occurrences than otherwise. 

Therefore — the disks would prob- 
ably have to be interstellar faster- 
than-light ships, in which case I 
would expect them to be about half 
a mile long, and, to date, none has 
been reported that size. 

Where does this leave "us? Back 
approximately where we started. 
However, several factors in my argu- 
ment must be pointed out for scien- 
tific objectivity: (1) I have never 
seen a Flying Saucer myself, nor do 
I know anybody who has; (2) there 
may be more than one type of 
missile involved, which would ex- 
plain the conflicting reports; (3) I 
have only known propulsive and de- 
sign principles and life forms to 
base my reasoning on; (4) my per- 
sonal belief that many reports are 
based on mistaken identity does not 
explain the rest. 

The simple truth is that I don't 
know what to think. But, as I said 
at the beginning, the editors of 
GALAXY Science Fiction have de- 
clared open season on Flying Sau- 
cers. Somebody, somewhere, may be 
hoarding an explanation that ex- 
plains all. Possibly the ingenious 
and extremely desirable prizes will 
lure out that explanation. 

What is your theory? 

—WILLY LEY 



FLYING SAUCERS . . . FRIEND. FOE OR FANTASY? 



69 



' 






. 






■ 



* * 

. - 



FLYING SAUCER CONTEST 

m 

♦£ This contest is meant to gain readers, certainly, but it is neither 
a stunt nor a hoax. Willy Ley, who introduces the contest, was a 
founding member and vice-president of the German Rocket Society 
in 1927; technical advisor to Fritz Lang's jamous UFA science 
fiction film; "The Girl in the Moon"; and, since coming to this coun- 
try in 1935 has devoted himself to research engineering for rocket 
development. His newest book, "Rockets, Missiles and Space Travel," 
is due at the end of 1950, and adds important data to the valuable 
literature he has already produced on this subject. When a recog- 
nized authority considers Flying Saucers a serious phenomenon, re- 
search of some kind is indicated. 

3& As magazine editors we are limited to exploration of opinion, and 
this we undertake in no spirit of hoax whatever. We feel, as Mr. 
Ley does, that "somebody, somewhere, may be hoarding an explana- 
tion that explains all. Possibly the ingenious and extremely desir- 
able prizes offered will lure out that explanation." 

9fr And we repeat with Mr. Ley: "What is your theory?" Tell us in 
200 words or less, basing your explanation on one of Willy Ley's 
three hypotheses . , . or do you have one of your own? 

RULES FOR FLYING SAUCER CONTEST 



1. Your theory on Flying Saucers must be 
contained in a letter of 200 words or less 

and must be accompanied by the coupon 
printed below. (Kindly print your name 
and address.) 

2. All entries must be addressed to GALAXY 
Flying Saucer Contest, World Editions, 

Inc., Box No. 103, Brooklyn 1, New York. 

3. Entries will be selected on the basis of 
originality, aptness to the subject, gen- 
eral interest, neatness and legibility. 

4. There will be a total of 40 prizes award- 
ed in the order listed below. Each win- 
ner of the first three prizes will receive an 
additional prize of $100 ifhls or her answer 
is accompanied by a year's subscription to 
GALAXY Science Fiction. (See coupon be- 
low.) 



5. Winners will be notified by mail, and all 
necessary arrangements will be made for 

the award of prizes as stipulated. 

6. In the case of merchandise awards, 
prizes are transferable. 

7. The decision of the judges will be final. 
All entries become the property of World 

Editions, Inc. and no entries will be re- 
turned. 

8. Any individual may compete with the 
following exceptions: Employees of 

World Editions, Inc., and members of their 
immediate families ; employees of Adver- 
tising Distributors of America, Inc. (the 
judges of this contest) and members of 
their immediate families. ' 

9. CONTEST CLOSES OCTOBER 31. 
1950. All entries must be postmarked not 

later than midnight. October 31, 1950, and 
must be covered by adequate postage. 



GALAXY Flying Saucer Contest 

World Editions. Inc., Box No. 103. Brooklyn 1. N. Y. 

Attached herewith is my entry to GALAXY Flying Saucer Contest. □ (check) 

I am enclosing $2.50 (check or^money order) for a year's subscription (12 issues) to 



GALAXY Science Fiction. 



□ (check) 



NAME. 



ADDRESS- 



CITY. 



ZONE- 



STATE. 



*** 



PRIZES 

« 

SPECIAL ATTENTION! If entries of the winners of first three prizes 
are accompanied with a year's subscription to GALAXY Science Fiction, 
a special additional prize of $100 will be awarded to each winner. 

1. A three-day all-expense trip (transportation, lodging, meals and 
sightseeing) to famous Mt. Wilson Observatory, near Hollywood 
California. 

2. A three-day all-expense trip (transportation, lodging, meals and 
sightseeing) to fascinating Marine Laboratory at Wood's Hole, 
Mass., including underwater descent with opportunity to view 
marine life in native habitat. 

3. A three-day all-expense trip (transportation, lodging, meals and 
sightseeing) to a government-approved atomic energy laboratory 
center. 

4. Three studio portraits of you, in color, (huge 8x10 photo- 
graphs) using the sensational new Larjachrome process of color- 
print enlargement. (Worth over $100.) 

5. Six professional photographs of you taken by Phil Pegler, top- 
flight New York photographer, at cyclotron center. 

6. A ride in a sky-writing plane, piloted by one of America's best- 
known skywriters, arranged by the Skywriting Corporation of 
America. 

7. An undersea trip on a late type U. S. submarine. 

8. A ride in a helicopter plane arranged by the Gyrodyne Company 
of America. 

9. A flight over New York City's skyscrapers in the famous Fla- 
mingo Orange Juice Dirigible. (For two ninth prize winners.) 

10. Two No. 45 Larjachrome kits for magnificent color prints 
enlarged from 4x5 Kodachrome cut film transparencies — a sensa- 
tional new process. (One each to two tenth prize winners.) 

11. A three-day course, in beauty and make-up at New York's 
glamorous Barbizon School of Fashion Modeling. 

12. Specially arranged tour through Television studios, including 
stand-by visit in control room during telecast, and guest appear- 
ance in show. 

13 to 18. Six No. 3 Larjachrome kits (same as those mentioned 
above) for 35mm. and Bantam Kodachrome transparencies. (One 
to each winner.) 

19 to 40. A twelve-months' subscription (one for each of 22 win- 
ners) to GALAXY Science Fiction. 



Certain prizes may be subject to change in accordance with security policy. 



The Stars Are The Styx 




By THEODORE STURGEON 
On Curbstone, going out meant a 6,000 year date! 



Every few years someone thinks 
to call me Charon. It never lasts. I 
guess I don't look the part. Charon, 
you'll remember, was the somber 
ferryman who steered the boat 
across the River Styx, taking the 
departed souls over to the Other 
Side.. He's usually pictured as a 
grim, taciturn character, tall and 
gaunt. 

I get called Charon, but that's 
not what I look like. I'm not ex- 
actly taciturn, and I don't go around 
in a flapping black cloak. I'm too 
fat. Maybe too old, too. 



It's, a shrewd gag, though, calling 
me Charon. I do pass human souls 
Out, and for nearly half of them, 
the stars are indeed the Styx — they 
will never return. 

I have two things I know Charon- 
had. One is that bitter difference- 
from the souls 1 deal with. They 
have lost only one world; the other 
is before them. But I'm rejected by 
both. 

The other thing has to do with 
a little-known fragment of the 
Charon legend. And that, I think, 
is worth a yam. 



72 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 




IrS JUDSON'S yarn, and I wish 
he was here to tell it himself — 
which is foolish; the yarn's about 
why he isn't here. "Here" is Curb- 
stone, by the way — the stepping-off 
place to the Other Side. It's Earth's 
other slow satellite, bumbling along 
out past the Moon. It was built 
7800 years ago for heavy inter- 
planetary transfer, though of course 
there's not much of that left any 
more. It's so easy to synthesize any- 
thing nowadays that there's just no 
call for imports. We make what we 



need from energy, and there's plenty 
of that around. There's plenty of 
everything. Even insecurity, though 
you have to come to Curbstone for 
that, and be someone like Judson to 
boot. 

It's no secret — 'now — that inse- 
curity is vital to the Curbstone proj- 
ect. In a cushioned existence on a 
stable Earth, volunteers for Curb- 
stone are rare. But they come in — 
the adventurous, the dissatisfied, the 
yearning ones, to man the tiny ships 
that will, in due time, give mankind 



THE STARS ARE THE STYX 



73 



a segment of space so huge that 
even mankind's voracious appetite 
for .expansion will be glutted for 
millenia. There is a vision that 
haunts all humans today — that of a 
network of force-beams in the form 
of a tremendous sphere, encom- 
passing much of the known universe 
and a great deal of the unknown — 
through which, like thought im- 
pulses through the synaptic paths of 
a giant brain, matter will be trans- 
mitted instantly, and a man may step 
from here to the depths of space 
while his heart beats once. The 
vision frightens most and lures a few, 
and of those few, some are chosen 
to go out. Judson was chosen. 

I knew he'd come to Curbstone. 
I'd known it for years, ever since I 
was on Earth and met him. He was 
just a youngster then, thirty or so, 
and boiling around under that soft- 
spoken, shockproof surface of his 
was something that had to drive him 
to Curbstone. It showed when he < 
raised his eyes. They got hungry. 
Any kind of hunger is rare on Earth. 
That's what Curbstone's for. The 
ultimate social balance — an escape 
for the unbalanced. 

Don't wince like that when I say 
'unbalanced'. Plain talk is plain talk. 
You can afford to be mighty plain 
about social imbalance these days. 
It's rare and it's slight. Thing is, 
when a man goes through fifteen 
years of primary social — childhood, 
I'm talking about — with all the 
subtle tinkering that involves, and 
still has an imbalance, it's a thing 



that sticks with him no matter how 
slight it is. Even then, the very ex- 
istence of Curbstone is enough to 
make most of 'em quite happy to 
stay where they are. The handful 
who do head for Curbstone do it be- 
cause they have to. Once here, only 
about half make the final plunge. 
The rest go back — or live here per- 
manently. Whatever they do, Curb- 
stone takes care of the imbalance. 

When you come right down to it, 
misfits are that way either because 
they lack something or because they 
have something extra. On Earth 
there's a place for everything and 
everything's in its place. On Curb- 
stone you find someone who has 
what you lack, or who has the same 
extra something you have — or you 
leave. You go back feeling that 
Earth's a pretty nice safe place after 
all, or you go Out, and if doesn't 
matter to anyone else, ever, whether 
you're happy or not. 

I WAS waiting in the entry bell 
when Judson arrived on Curb- 
stone. Judson had nothing to do 
with that. I didn't even know he 
was on that particular shuttle. It's 
just that, aside from the fact that I 
happen to be Senior Release Officer 
on Curbstone, I like to meet the 
shuttles. All sorts of people come 
here, for all sorts of reasons. They 
stay here or they don't for all sorts 
of other reasons. I like to look at 
the faces that come down that ramp 
and guess which ones will go which 
way. I'm pretty good at it. As soon 



74 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



as I saw Judson's face I knew that 
this boy was bound Out. I recog- 
nized that about him even before I 
realized who it was. 

There was a knot of us there to 
watch the newcomers come in. Most 
were there just because it's worth 
watching them all, the hesitant ones, 
the damn-it-alls, the grim ones. But 
two Curbstoners I noticed particu- 
larly. Hunters both. One was a lean, 
slick-haired boy named Wold. It was 
pretty obvious what he was hunting. 
The other was Flower. It was just 
as obvious what she had her long, 
wide-spaced eyes out for, but it was 
hard to tell why. Last I had heard, 
she had been solidly wrapped up in 
an Outbounder called Clinton. 

I forgot about the wolf and the 
vixen when I recognized Judson and 
bellowed at him. He dropped his kit 
where he stood and came bounding 
over to me. He grabbed both my 
biceps and squeezed while I 
thumped his ribs. "I was waiting up 
for you, Judson," I grinned at him. 

"TV/TAN, I'm glad you're still 

JLVJ. here," he said. He was a 
sandy-haired fellow, "all Adam's 
apple and guarded eyes. 

"I'm here for the duration," I 
told him. "Didn't you know?" 

"No, I — I mean. . . ." 

"Don't be tactful, Jud," I said. "I 
belong here by virtue of the fact that 
there's nowhere else for me to go. 
Earth isn't happy about men as fat 
and funny-looking as I am in the 
era of beautiful people. And I can't 



go Out. I have a left axis deviation. 
I know that sounds political; actual- 
ly it's cardiac." 

"I'm sorry." He looked at my 
brassard. "Well, you're Mr. Big 
around here, anyway." 

"I'm just big around here," I 
said, swatting my ^belt-line. "There's 
Coordination Office and a half-squad 
of Guardians who ice this particular 
cake. I'm just the final check on 
Outbounders." 

"Yeah," he said. "You don't rate. 
Much. The whole function of this 
space-station waits on whether you 
say yes to a departure." 

"Shecks now," I said, exaggerat- 
ing my embarrassment to cover up 
my exaggerated embarrassment. 
"Whatever, I wouldn't worry too 
much if I were you. I could be 
wrong — we'll have to run some* 
more tests on you — but if ever I 
saw an Outbounder, it's you." 

"Hi," said a silken voice. "You 
already know each other. How nice." 1 

Flower. ; 

There was something vaguely rep-v 
tilian about Flower, which didn't 
take a thing from her brand of mag- 
netism. Bit by bit, piece by piece, 
she was a so-so looking girl. Her 
eyes were too long, and so dark they 
seemed to be all pupil and the whites 
too white. Her nose was a bit too 
large and her chin a bit too small, 
but so help me, there never was a 
more perfect mouth. Her voice was 
like a 'cello bowed up near the 
bridge. She was tall, with a fragile- 
in-the-m i d d 1 e slenderness and 



THE STARS ARE THE STYX 



75 






spring-steel flanks. The overall ef- 
fect was breathtaking. I didn't like 
her. She didn't like me either. She 
never, spoke to me except on busi- 
ness, and I had practically no busi- 
ness with her. She'd been here a 
long time. I hadn't figured out why, 
then. But she wouldn't go Out and 
she wouldn't go back to Earth — 
which in itself was all right; we had 
lots of room. 

LET me tell you something about 
modern women and therefore 
something about Flower — something 
you might not reason out unless you 
get as old and objective as I've some- 
how lived to become. 

Used to be, according to what 
I've read, that clothes ran a lot to 
what I might call indicative con- 
cealment. As long as clothes had the 
slightest excuse of functionalism, 
people in general and women in 
particular made a large fuss over 
something called innate modesty — 
which never did exist; it had to be 
learned. But as long as there was 
weather around to blame clothes on, 
the myth "was accepted. People ex- 
posed what the world was indiffer- 
ent to in order to whip up interest 
in the rest. "Modesty is not so 
simple a virtue as honesty," one of 
the old books says. Clothes as 
weatherproofing got themselves all 
mixed up with clothes as ornament; 
fashions came and went and people 
followed them. 

But for the past three hundred 
years or so there hasn't been any 



"weather" as such, for anyone, here 
or on Earth. Clothes for onjy aes- 
thetic purposes became more and 
more the rule, until today it's up to 
the individual to choose what he's 
going to wear, if anything. An ear- 
ring and a tattoo are quite as ac- 
ceptable in public as forty meters of 
iridescent plastiweb and a two-meter 
coiffure. 

Now, most people today are 
healthy, well-selected, and good to 
look at. Women are still as vain as 
ever. A woman with a bodily defect, 
real or imagined, has one of two 
choices: She can cover the defect 
with something artfully placed to 
look as if that was just the best place 
for it, or she can leave the defect -in 
the open, knowing that no one . to- 
day * is going to judge her completely 
in terms of the defect. Folks now- 
adays generally wait until they can 
find out what kind of a human be- 
ing you are. 

But a woman who has no par- 
ticular defect generally changes her 
clothes with her mood. It might be 
a sash only this morning, but a 
trailing drape this afternoon. Tomor- 
row it might be a one-sided blouse 
and clinging trousers. You can take 
it as a very significant thing when 
such a woman always covers up. 
She's keeping her natural warmth, 
as it were, under forced draft. 

I didn't go into all this ancient 
history to impress you with my scho- 
lastics. I'm using it to illustrate a 
very important facet of Flower's 
complex character. Because Flower 



76 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



was one of those forced-draft jobs. 
Except on the sun-field and in the 
swimming pools, where no one ever 
wears clothes, Flower always affected 
a tunic of some kind. 

The day Judson arrived, she wore 
a definitive example of what I mean. 
If was a single loose black garment 
with straight shoulders and no 
sleeves. On both sides, from a point 
a hand's-breath below the armpit, 
down to the hipbone, it was slit 
open. It fastened snugly under her 
throat with one magne-clasp, but 
was also slit from there to the navel. 
It did not quite reach to mid-thigh, 
and the soft material carried a light 
biostatic electrical charge, so that it 
clung to and fell away from her 
body as she moved. So help me, she 
was a walking demand for the re- 
vival of the extinct profession of - 
peeping Tom. 

This, then, was what horned in on 
my first few words with Judson. I 
should have known from the way 
she looked that she was planning 
something — something definitely for 
herself. I should have been doubly 
warned by the fact that she took the 
trouble to speak up just when she 
did — just when I told Jud he was 
a certifiable Outbounder if I ever 
saw one. 

So then and there I made my big 
mistake. "Flower," I said, "this is 
Judson." 

She used the second it took me 
to speak to suck in her lower lip, so 
that when she smiled slowly at Jud, 
the lip swelled visibly as if by blood 



pressure. "I am glad," she all but 
whispered. 

And then she had the craft to 
turn the smile on me and walk away 
without another word. 

". . . Gah!" said Judson through 
a tight glottis. 

"Xfrat," I told him, "was beauti- 
fully phrased. Gah, indeed. Reel 
your eyeballs back in, Jud. "We'll 
drop your duffel off at the Outbound 
quarters and — Judson!" 

Flower had disappeared down the 
inner ramp. I was aware that Judson 
had just started to breathe again. 
"What?" he asked me. 

I waddled over and picked up his 
gear. "Come ofi," I said, and steered 
him by the arm. 

JUDSON had nothing to say un- 
til after we found him a room 
and started for my sector. "Who is 
she?" 

"A - hardy perennial," I said. 
"Came up to Curbstone two years 
ago. She's never been certified. 
She'll get around to it soon — or 
never. Are you going right ahead?" 

"Just how do you handle the cerj 
tification?" 

"Give you some stuff to read. 
Pound some more knowledge into 
you for six, seven nights while you 
sleep. Look over your reflexes, phys- 
ical and mental. An examination. If 
everything's all right, you're certi- 
fied." - 

"Then— Out?" 

I shrugged. "If you like. You 
come to Curbstone strictly on your 



THE STARS ARE THE STYX 



77 



1 



own. You take your course if and 
when you like. And after you've 
been certified, you leave when you 
want to, with someone or not, and 
without telling anyone unless you 
care to." 

"Man, when you people say Vol- 
untary' you're not just talking!" 

"There's no other way to handle 
a thing like this. And you can bet 
that we get more people Out this 
way than we ever would on a com- 
pulsory basis. In the long run, I 
mean, and this is a long-term proj- 
ect ... six thousand years long." 

He walked silently for a time, and 
I was pretty sure I knew his 
thoughts. For Outbounders there is 
no return, and the best possible 
chance they have of survival is some- 
thing like fifty-four per cent, a figure 
which was arrived at after calcula- 
tions so complex that it might as 
well be called a guess. You don't 
force people Out against those odds. 
They go by themselves, driven by 
their own reasoning, or they don't 
go at all. 

AFTER a time Judson said, "I al- 
ways thought Outbounders were 
assigned a ship and a departure time. 
With certified people leaving when- 
ever they feel like it, what's to pre- 
vent uncertified ones from doing 
it?" 

"That I'm about to show you." 
We passed the Coordination 
offices and headed out to the launch- 
ing racks. They were shut off from 
Top Central Corridor by a massive 



gate. Over the gate floated three 
words in glowing letters: 

SPECIES 
GROUP 
SELF . 

Seeing Jud's eyes on it, I ex- 
plained, "The three levels of sur- 
vival. They're in all of us. You can 
judge a man by the way he lines 
them up. The ones who have them 
in that order are the best. It's a good 
thought for Outbounders to take 
away with them." I watched his face. 
"Particularly since it's always the 
third item that brings 'em this far." 

Jud smiled slowly. "Along with 
all that bumbling you carry a sting, 
don't you?" 

"Mine is a peculiar job," I 
grinned back. "Come on in." 

I put my palm on the key-plate. 
It tingled for a brief, moment and 
then the shining doors slid back. J 
rolled through, stopping just inside 
the launching court at Judson's 
startled yelp. ■ 

"Well, come on," I said. 

He stood just inside the doors, 
straining mightily against nothing at 
ail. "Wh— wh— ?" .His arms were 
spread and his feet slipped as if he 
were trying to force his way through 
a steel wall. 

Actually he was working on 
something a good deal stronger than 
that. "That's the answer to why un- 
certified people don't go Out," I told 
him. "The plate outside scanned the 
whorls and lines of my hand. The 



78 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



door opened and that Gillis-Menton 
field you're muscling passed me 
through. It'll pass anyone who's cer- 
tified, too, but no one else. Now 
stop pushing or you'll suddenly fall 
on your face." 

I stepped to the left bulkhead and 
palmed the plate there, then beck- 
oned to Judson. He approached the 
invisible barrier timidly. It wasn't 
there. He came all the way through, 
and I took my hand off the scanner. 

"That second plate," I explained, 
"works for me and certified people 
only. There's no way for an uncerti- 
fied person to get into the launching 
\ court unless I bring him in person- 
ally. It's as simple as that. When the 
certified are good and ready, they go. 
If they want to go Out with a ban- 
quet and a parade beforehand, they 
can. If they want to roll out of bed 
some night and sdip Out quietly, 
they can. Most of 'em do it quietly. 
Come on and have a look at the 
ships." 

WE CROSSED the court to the 
row of low doorways along the 
far wall. I opened one at random and 
we stepped into the ship. 

"It's just a room!" 

"They all say that," I chuckled. 
"I suppose you expected a planet- 
type space job, only more elabor- 
ate. 

"I thought they'd at least look 
like ships. This is a. double room 
out of some luxury hotel." 

"It's that, and then some." . I 
showed him around — the capacious 



food lockers, the automatic air re- 
circulators, , and, most comforting of 
all, the synthesizer, which meant 
food, fuel, tools and materials con- 
verted directly from energy to mat- 
ter. 

"Curbstone's more than a space 
station, Jud. It's a factory, for one 
thing. When you decide to go on 
your way, you'll flip that lever by 
the door. (You'll be catapulted out 
— you won't feel it, because of the 
stasis generator and artificial grav- 
ity.) As soon as you're gone, an- 
other ship will come up from below 
into this slot. By the time you're 
clear of Curbstone's gravitic field 
and slip into hyper-drive, the new 
ship' 11 be waiting for passengers." 

"And that will be going on for 
six thousand years?" 

"More or less." 

"That's a powerful lot of ships." 

"As long as Outbounders keep 
the quota, it is indeed. Nine hun- 
dred thousand — including forty-six 
per cent failure." 

"Failure," said Jud. He looked at 
me and I held his gaze. 

"Yes," I said. "The forty-six per 
cent who are not expected to get 
where they are going. The ones who 
materialize inside solid matter. The 
ones who go into the space-time 
nexus and never come out. The ones 
who reach their assigned synaptic 
junction and wait, and wait, and 
wait until they die of old age be- 
cause no one gets to them soon 
enough. The ones who go mad and 
kill themselves or their shipmates." 



THE STARS ARE THE STYX 



79 



I spread my hands. "The forty-six 
per cent." 

"You can convince a man of dan- 
ger," said Judson evenly, "but no- 
body ever believed he was really and 
truly going to die. Death is some- 
thing that happens to other people. 
I won't be one of the forty-six per 
cent." 

That was Judson. I wish he was 
still here. 

I let the remark lie there on the 
thick carpet and went on with my 
guided tour. I showed him the cas- 
ing of the intricate beam-power ap- 
paratus that contained the whole 
reason for the project, 'and gave him 
a preliminary look at the astroga- 
tional and manual maneuvering 
equipment and controls. "But don't 
bother your pretty little head about 
it just now," J added. "It'll all be 
crammed into you before you get 
certified." 

We went back to the court, clos- 
ing the door of the ship behind us. 

"There's a lot of stuff piled into 
those ships," I observed, "but the 
one thing that can't be packed in 
sardine-size is the hyper- drive. I 
suppose you know that." 

"I've heard something about it. 
The initial kick into second-order 
space comes from the station here, 
doesn't it? But how is the ship re- 
turned to normal space on arrival?" 

"That's technology so refined it 
sounds like mysticism," I answered. 
"I don't begin to understand it. I 
can give you an analogy, though. It 
takes a power source, a compression 



device, and valving to fill a pneu- 
matic tire. It takes a plain nail to 
let the air out again. See what I 
mean?" 

"Vaguely. Anyway, the important 
thing is that Outbound is strictly 
one way. Those ships never come 
back. Right?" 

"So right." 

One of the doors behind us 
opened, and a girl stepped out of a 
ship. "Oh ... I didn't know there 
was anyone here!" she said, and 
came toward us with a long, easy 
stride. "Am I in the way?" 

"T^OU— in the way, Tween?" I 
1 answered. "Not a chance." 
I was very fond of Tween. To 
these jaded old eyes she was one of 
the loveliest things that ever hap- 
pened. Two centuries ago, before 
variation limits were as rigidly set 
as they are now, Eugenics dreamed 
up her kind — olive-skinned true- 
breeds with the silver hair and deep 
ruby eyes of an albino. It* was an 
experiment they should never have 
stopped. Albinoism wasn't domi- 
nant, but in Tween it had come out 
strongly. She wore her hair long — 
really long; she could tuck the ends 
of it under her toes and stand up 
straight when it was loose. Now it 
was braided in two ingenious halves 
of a coronet that looked like real 
silver. Around her throat and 
streaming behind her as she walked 
was a single length of flame-colored 
material. 

"This is Judson, Tween," I said. 



80 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



"We were friends back on Earth. 
What are you up to?" 

She laughed, a captivating, self- 
conscious laugh. "I was sitting in a 
ship pretending that it was Outside. 
We'd looked at each other one day 
and suddenly said, 'Let's!' and off 
we'd gone." Her face was luminous. 
"It was lovely. And that's just what 
we're going to do one of these days. 
You'll see." 

M 'We'? Oh— you mean Wold." 

*Wold," she breathed, and I 
wished, . briefly and sharply, that 
someone, somewhere, someday 
would speak my name like that. And 
on the heels of that reaction came 
the mental picture of Wold as I had 
seen him an hour before, slick and 
smooth, watching the shuttle pas- 
sengers with his dark hunting eyes. 
There was nothing I could say, 
though. My duties have their limits. 
If Wold didn't know a good thing 
when he saw it, that was his hard 
luck. 

But looking at that shining face, 
I knew at would be her hard luck. 

"You're certified?" Judson asked, 
awed. 

"Oh, yes," she smiled, and I said, 
"Sure is, Jud. But she had her trou- 
bles, didn't you, Tween?" 

We started for the gate. "I did 
indeed," said Tween. (I loved hear- 
ing her talk. There was a comfort- 
ing, restful quality to her speech 
like silence when an unnoticed, irri- 
tating noise disappears.) "I just 
didn't have the logical aptitudes 
when I first came. Some things just 



wouldn't stick in my head, even in 
hypnopedia. All 'the facts in the 
universe won't help if you don't 
know how to put them together." 
She grinned. "I used to hate you." 

"Don't blame you a bit." I 
nudged Judson. "I turned down her 
certification eight times. She used to 
come to my office to get the bad 
news, and she'd stand there after I'd 
told her and shuffle her feet and 
gulp a little bit. And the first thing 
she said then was always, 'Well, 
when can I start retraining?' 



■>> »». 



SHE flushed, laughing. "You're 
telling secrets!" 

Judson touched her. "It's all 
right. I don't think less of you for 
any of his maunderings. . . . You 
must have wanted that certificate 
very much." 

"Yes," she said. "Very much.". 

"Could — could I ask why?" 

She looked at him, in him, 
through him, past him. "All our 
lives," she said quietly, "are safe 
and sure and small. This — " she 
waved back towards the ships — "is 
the only thing in our experience 
that's none of those things. I could 
give you fifty reasons for going Out. 
But I think they all come down to 
that one." 

We were silent for a moment, 
and then I said, "I'll put that in my 
notebook, Tween. You couldn't be 
more right. Modern life gives us in- 
finite variety in everything except 
the magnitude of the things we do. 
And that stays pretty tiny." And, I 



THE STARS ARE THE STYX 



81 



thought, big, fat, superannuated sta- 
tion officials, rejected by one world 
and unqualified for the next. A 
small chore for a small mind. 

"The ,only reason most of us do 
puny things and think puny 
thoughts," Judson was saying, "is 
that Earth has too few jobs like his 
in these efficient times." 

"Too few men like him for jobs 
like his," Tween corrected. 

I blinked at them both. It was me 
they were talking about. I don't 
think I changed expression much, 
but I felt as warm as the color of 
Tween's eyes. 

WE PASSED through the gates, 
Tween first with never a 
thought for the barrier which did 
not exist for her, then Judson, wait- 
ing cautiously for my go-ahead after 
the inside scanning plate had ex- 
amined the whorjs and lines of my 
•hand. I followed, and the great 
gates closed behind us. 

"Want to come up to the office?" 
I asked Tween when we reached 
Central Corridor. 

"Thanks, no," she said. "I'm go- 
ing to find Wold." She turned to 
Judson. "You'll be certified quick- 
ly," she told him. "I just know. But, 
Judson — " 

"Say it, whatever it is," said Jud, 
sensing her hesitation. 

"I was going to say get certified 
first. Don't try to decide anything 
else before that. You'll- have to take 
my word for it, but nothing that 
ever happened to you is quite like 



the knowledge that you're free to 
go through those gates any time you 
feel- like it." 

Judson' s face assumed a slightly 
puzzled, slightly stubborn expres- 
sion. It disappeared, and I knew it 
was a conscious effort for him to 
do it. Then he put out his hand and 
touched her heavy silver hair. 
"Thanks," he said. 

She strode off, the carriage of her 
head felling us that her face was 
eager as she went to Wold. At the 
turn of the corridor she waved and 
was gone. 

. "I'm going to miss that girl," I 
said, and turned back to Judson. 
The puzzled, stubborn look was 
back, full force. "What's the mat- 
ter?" 

"What did she mean by that sis- 
terly advice about getting certified 
first? What else would I have to 
decide about right now?" 

I swatted his shoulder. "Don't let 
it bother you, Jud. She sees some- 
thing in you that you -can't see your- 
self, yet." 

That didn't satisfy him at all. 
"Like what?" When I didn't answer, 
he asked, "You see it, too, don't 
you ?" 

We started up the ramp to my 
office. "I like you," I said. "I liked 
you the minute I laid eyes on you, 
years ago, when you were just a 
sprout." 

"You've changed the subject." 

"Hell I have. Now let me save 
my wind for the ramp." This was 
only slightly a stall. As the years 



82 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



went by, that ramp seemed to get 
steeper and steeper. Twice Coordin- 
ation had offered to power it for 
me and I'd refused haughtily. I 
could see the time coming when I 
was going to be too heavy for my 
high-horse. All the same, I was glad 
for the chance to stall my answer 
to Judson's question. The answer 
lay in my liking him; I knew that 
instinctively. But it needed think- 
ing through. We've conditioned our- 
selves too much to analyze bur dis- 
likes and to take our likes for 
granted. 

THE outer door opened as we 
approached. There was a man 
waiting in the appointment foyer, a 
big fellow with a gray cape and a 
golden circlet around his blue-black 
hair. "Clinton!" I said. "How are, 
you, son? Waiting for me?" 

The inner door opened for me 
and I went into my office, Clinton 
behind me. I fell down in my spe- 
cially molded chair and waved him 
to a relaxer. At the door Judson 
cleared his throat. "Shall I — 
uh. ..." 

Clinton looked up swiftly, an an- 
noyed, tense motion. He raked a 
blazing blue gaze across Jud, and 
his expression changed. "Come in, 
for God's sake. Newcomer, hm? Sit 
down. Listen. You can't learn 
enough about this project. Or these 
people. Or the kind of flat spin an 
Outbounder can get himself into." 

"Clint, this's Judson," I said. 
"Jud, Gint's about the itchy-footed- 



est Outbounder of them all. What 
is on your mind, son?" 

Clinton wet his lips. "How's 
about me heading Out — alone?" 

I said, "Your privilege, if you 
think you'll enjoy it." 

iHe smacked a heavy fist into his 
palm. "Good, then." 

"Of course," I said, looking at 
the overhead, "the ships are built 
for two. I'd personally be a bit 
troubled about the prospect of 
spending— uh — however long it 
might be, staring at that empty bunk 
across the way. Specially," I added, 
loudly, to interrupt what he was 
going to say, "if I had to spend 
some hours or weeks or maybe a 
decade with the knowledge that- I 
was alone because I took off with 
a mad on." 

"This isn't what you might call a 
fit of pique," snapped Clinton. "It's 
been years building — first because I 
had a need and recognized it; sec- 
ond because the need got greater 
when I started to work toward fill- 
ing it; third because I found who 
and what would satisfy it; fourth 
because I was so wrong on point 
three." 

"You are wrong? Or you're 
afraid you're wrong?" 

He looked at me blankly. "I don't 
know," he said, all the snap gone 
out of his voice. "Not for sure." 

"Well, then, you've no real prob- 
lem. All you do is ask yourself 
whether it's worthwhile to take off 
alone because of a problem you 
haven't solved. If it is, go ahead." 



THE STARS ARE THE STYX 



83 



- 



He rose and went to the door. 
"Clinton!" My voice must have 
crackled; he stopped without turn- 
ing, and from the corner of my eye 
I saw Judson sit up abruptly. I said, 
more quietly, "When Judson here 
suggested that he go away and leave 
us alone, why did you tell him to 
come in? What did you see in him 
that made you do it?" 

Clinton's thoughtfully slitted eyes 
hardly masked their blazing blue as 
he turned them on Judson, who 
squirmed like a schoolboy. Clinton 
said, "I think it's because he looks 
as if he can be reached. And trusted. 
That answer you?" 

"It does." I , waved him out 
cheerfully. Judson said, "You have 
an awesome way of operating." 

"On him?" 

"On both of us. How do you 
know what you did by turning his 
problem back on himself? He's like- 
ly to go straight to the launching- 
court." 

"He won't." 

"You're sure?" 

"Of course I'm sure," I said flat- 
ly. "If Clinton hadn't already de- 
cided not to take off alone — not to- 
day, anyhow — he wouldn't have 
come -to see me and get argued out 
of it." 

"What's really bothering him?" 

"I can't say." I wouldn't say. Not 
to Judson. Not now, at least. Clin- 
ton was ripe to leave, and he was 
the kind to act when ready. He had 
found what he thought was the per- 
fect human being for him to go 



with. She wasn't ready to go. She 
never in all time and eternity would 
be ready to go. 

"All right," said Jud. "What 
about me? That was very embar- 
rassing." 

I LAUGHED at him. "Sometimes 
when you don't know exactly 
how to phrase something for your- 
self, you can shock a stranger into 
doing it for you. Why did I -like 
you on sight, years ago, and now, 
too? Why did Clinton feel you were 
trustworthy? Why did Tween feel 
free to pass you some advice — and 
what prompted the advice? Why 
did — " No. Don't mention the most 
significant one of all. Leave her out 
of it. " — Well, there's no point in 
itemizing- all afternoon. Clinton said 
it. You can be reached. Practically 
anyone meeting you knows — feels, 
anyhow — that you can be reached 
. . . touched . . . affected. We like 
feeling that we have an effect on 
someone." 

Judson closed his eyes, screwed" 
up his brow. I knew he was dig- 
ging around in his memory, think- 
ing of close and casual acquaintances 
. . . how many of them . . . how 
much they had meant to him and he 
to t^:m. He looked at me. "Should 
I change?" 

"God, no! Only — don't let it be 
too true. I think that's what Tween 
was driving at when she said not to 
jump at any decisions until you've 
reached the comparative serenity of 
certification." 






84 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



. "Serenity ... I could use some 
of that," he murmured. 

"Jud." 

"Mm?" 

"Did you ever try to put into one 
simple statement just why you came 
to Curbstone?" 

He looked startled. Like most 
people, he had been living, and liv- 
ing ardently, without ever wonder- 
ing .particularly what for. And like 
most people, he had sooner or later 
had to answer the jackpot question: 
"What am I doing here?" 



"i 



CAME because — because . . . 
no, that wouldn't be a simple 
statement." 

"All right. Run it off, anyway. A 
simple statement will come out of it 
if there's anything really important 
there. Any basic is simple, Jud. 
Every basic is important. Compli- 
cated matters may be fascinating, 
frightening, funny, intriguing, wor- 
risome, educational, or what have 
you; but if they're complicated, they 
are, by definition, not important.'*' 

He leaned forward and put his 
elbows on his knees. His hands 
wound tightly around one another, 
and his head went down. 

"I came here . . . looking for 
something. Not because" I thought 
it was here. There was just nowhere 
else left to look. Earth is under such 
strict discipline . . . discipline by 
comfort; discipline by constructive 
luxury. Every need is taken care of 
that you can name, and no one seems 
to understand that the needs you 



can't name are the important ones. 
And all Earth is in a state of ar- 
rested development because of Curb- 
stone. Everything is held in check. 
The status quo rules because for six 
thousand years it must and will. Six 
thousand years of physical and so- 
cial evolution will be sacrificed for 
the single tremendous step that 
Curbstone makes possible. And I 
couldn't find a place for myself in 
the static part of the plan, so the 
only place for me to go was to the 
active part." 

He was quiet so long after that, 
I felt I had to nudge him along. 
"Could it be that there is a way to 
make you happy on Earth, and you 
just haven't been able to find it?" 

"Oh, no," he said positively. 
Then he raised his head and stared 
at me. "Wait a minute. You're very 
close to the mark there. That — that 
simple statement is trying to crawl 
out." He frowned. This time I kept 
my mouth shut and watched him. 

"The something I'm looking for," 
he said finally, in the surest tones 
he'd used yet, "is something I lack, 
or something I have that I haven't 
been ahle to name yet. If there's 
anything on Earth or here that can 
fill that hollow place, and if I find 
it, I won't want to go Out. J won't 
need to go — I shouldn't go. But if 
it doesn't exist for me here, then 
Out I go, as part of a big something, 
rather than as a something missing 
a part. Wait!" He chewed his lower 
lip. His knuckle-joints crackled as 
he twisted his hands together. "I'll 



THE STARS ARE THE STYX 



85 



rephrase that and you'll have your 
simple statement." 

He took a deep breath and said, 
"I came to Curbstone to find out 
. . . whether there's something I 
haven't had yet that belongs to me, 
or whether I . . . belong to some- 
thing that hasn't had me yet." 

"Fine," I said. "Very damned 
fine. .You keep looking, Jud. The 
answer's here, somewhere, in some 
form. I've never heard it put better: 
Do you owe, or are you owed? There 
are three possible courses open to 
you, no matter which way you de- 
cide." 

"There are? Three?" 

I put up fingers one at a time. 
"Earth. Here. Out." 
I — see. 

"And you can take the course of 
any one of the words you saw float- 
ing over the gate to the launching 
court." 

He stood up^ "I've got a lot to 
think about." " u 

"You have." 

"But I've got me one hell of a 
blueprint." 

I just grinned at him. 

"You through with me?" he 
asked. 

"For now." 

"When do I start work for my 
certificate ?" 

"At the moment, you're just about 
four-ninths through." 

"You dog! All this has been — " 

"I'm a working man, Jud. I work 
all the time. Now beat it. Youjll 
hear from me." 



"You dog," he said' again. "You 
old houftd-dogl" But he left. 

I sat back to think. I thought 
about Judson, of course. And Clin- 
ton and his worrisome solo ideas. 
The trip can be done solo, but it 
isn't a good idea. The human mind's 
communications equipment isn't a 
convenience — it's a vital necessity. 
Tween. How beautiful can a girl 
get? And the way she lights up 
when she thinks about going Out. 
She's certified now. Guess she and 
Wold will be taking off any time 
now. 

Then my mind spun back to 
FJower. Put those pieces together 
. . . something should fit. Turn it 
this way, back — Ah! Clinton wants 
Out. He's been waiting and waiting 
for his girl to get certified. She 
hasn't even tried. He's not going 
to wait much longer. Who's his girl 
now . . .? 

Flower. 

Flower, who turned all that heat 
on Judson. 

Why Judson? There were bigger 
men, smarter, better-looking ones. 
What was special about Judson? 

I filed the whole item away in my 
mind — with a red priority tab on it. 

THE days went by. A gong 
chimed and the number-board 
over my desk glowed. I didn't have 
to look up the numbers to know 
who it was. Fort and Mariellen. 
Nice kids. Slipped Out during a 
sleep period. I thought about them, 
watched the chain of checking lights 



86 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



flicker on, one after another. Palm- 
patterns removed from the Gate 
scanner; they'd never be used there 
again. Ship replaced. Quarters 
cleared and readied. Launching time 
reported to Coordination. Marriage 
recorded. Automatic machinery cal- 
culated, filed, punched cards, acti- 
vated more automatic machinery un- 
til Fort and Mariellen were only axial 
alignments on the molecules of a 
magnetic tape . . . names . . . mem- 
ories . . . dead, perhaps; gone, cer- 
tainly, for the next six thousand 
years. 

Hold tight, Earth! Wait for them, 
the fifty-four per cent (I hope, I 
ardently hope) who will come back. 
Their relatives, their Earthbound 
friends will be long dead, and all 
•their children and theirs; so Jet the 
Outbounders come home at least to 
the same Earth, the same language, 
the same traditions. They will be 
the millennial traditions of a more- 
than-Earth, the source of the unthink- 
able spatial sphere made fingertip - 
available to humankind through 
the efforts of the Outbounders. 
Earth is prepaying six thousand 
years of progress in exchange for the 
ability to use stars for stepping- 
stones, to be able to make Mars in 
a minute, Antares and Betelgeuse 
afternoon stops in a delivery run. 
Six^ thousand years of sacred stasis 
buys all but a universe, conquers 
Time, eliminates the fractionation of 
humanity into ship-riding, minute- 
shackled fragments of diverging evo- 
lution among the stars. All the stars 



will be in the next room when the 
Outbounders return. 

Six thousand times around Sol, 
with Sol moving in a moving galaxy, 
and the galaxy in flight through a 
fluxing universe. That all amounts 
to a resultant movement of Earth 
through nine Mollner degrees 
around the Universal Curve. For six 
thousand years Curbstone flings off 
its tiny ships, its monstrous power- 
plant kicking them into space-time 
and the automatics holding them 
there until all — or until enough — 
are positioned. Some will material- 
ize in the known universe and some* 
in faintly suspected nebulae; some 
will appear in the empty nothing- 
nesses beyond the galactic clusters, 
and some will burst into normal 
space inside molten suns. 

BUT when the time comes, and the 
little ships are positioned in a 
great spherical pattern out around 
space, and together they become real 
again, they will send to each other 
a blaze of tight-beam energy. Like 
the wiring of a great switchboard, 
like the synapses of a brain, each 
beam will find its neighbors, and 
through them Earth. 

And then, within and all through 
that sphere, humanity will spread, 
stepping from rim to rim of the 
universe in seconds, instantaneously 
transmitting men and materials from 
and to the stars. Here a ship can be 
sent piecemeal and assembled, there 
a space-station. Yonder, on some un- 
heard-of planet of an unknown star, 



THE STARS ARE THE STYX 



87 



' 



men light years away from Earth can 
assemble matter transceivers and 
hook them up to the great sphere, 
and add yet another world to those 
already"~visited. 

AND what of the Outbounders? 
Real time, six thousand years. 

Ship's time, from second-order 
spatial entry to materialization — 
zero. 

Fort and Mariellen. Nice kids. 
Memories now; lights on a board, 
one after another, until they're all 
accounted for. At Curbstone, the 
quiet machinery says, "Next!" 

Fort and Mariellen. Clinging to- 
gether, they press down the launch- 
ing lever. .Effortlessly in their 
launching, they whirl away from 
Curbstone. In minutes there is a 
flicker of gray, or perhaps not even 
that. Strange stars surround them. 
They .stare at one another. They are 
elsewhere . . . elsewfoet?. Lights 
glow. This one says the tight-beam 
has gone on, pouring out toward 
the neighbors and, through them, to 
all the others. That one cries 
"emergency" and Fort, whips to the 
manual controls and does what he 
can to avoid a dust-cloud, a planet 
. . . perhaps an alien ship. 

Fort and Mariellen (or George 
and Viki, or Bruce, who went Out 
by himself, or Eleanor and Grace, 
or Sam and Rod — they were broth- 
ers) may materialize and die in an 
intolerable matter- displacement ex- 
plosion so quickly that there is no 
time for pain. They may be holed 



by a meteor and watch, with glazing 
freezing eyes, the froth bubbling up 
from each other's bursting lungs. 
They may survive for minutes or 
weeks, and then fall captive to some 
giant planet or unsuspected sun. 
They may be hunted down and 
killed or captured by beings un- 
dreamed of. 

And some of them will survive 
all this and wait for the blessed 
contact; the strident heralding of 
the matter transceiver with which 
each ship is equipped — and the ab- 
rupt appearance of a man, sixty 
centuries unborn when they left 
Curbstone, instantly transmitted from 
Earth to their vessel. Back with him 
they'll go, to an unchanged and 
ecstatic Earth, teeming with billions 
of trained, mature humans ready to 
fill the universe with human ways — 
the new humans who have left war 
and greed behind them, who have 
acquired a universe so huge that 
they need exploit no creature's 
properties, so rich and available- is 
everything they require. 

And some will survive, and wait, 
and die waiting because of some re- 
motely extrapolated miscalculation. 
The beams never reach them; their 
beams contact nothing. And perhaps 
a few of these will not die, but will 
find refuge on some planet to leave 
a marker that will shock whatever 
is alive and intelligent a million 
years hence. Perhaps they will leave 
more than that. Perhaps there will 
be a slower, more hazardous plant: 
ing of humanity in the gulfs. 



88 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



But fifty-four per cent, the calcu- 
lations insist, will establish the star- 
conquering sphere and return. 

THE weeks went by. A chime: 
Bark and Barbara. Damn it all, 
no more of Barbara's banana cream 
pie. The filing, the sweeping, the 
recording, the lights. Marriage re- 
corded. 

When a man and a woman go 
Out together, that is marriage. There 
is another way to be married on 
Curbstone. There is a touch less 
speed involved in it than in joined 
hands pressing down a launching 
lever. There is not one whit less 
solemnity. It means what it means 
because it is not stamped with neces- 
sity. Children derive their names 
from their mothers, wed or not, and 
there is no distinction. Men and 
women, as responsible adults, do as 
they please within limits which are 
extremely wide. Except. . . . 

By arduous trial and tragic error, 
humanity has evolved modern mar- 
riage. With social pressure removed 
from the pursuit of a mate, with the 
end of the ribald persecution of 
spinsterhood, a marriage ceases to 
be a rubber stamp upon what people 
are sure to do, with or without cere- 
monies. Where men and women are 
free to seek their own company, as 
and when they choose, without so- 
cial penalties, they will not be 
trapped into hypocrisies with mar- 
riage vows. Under such conditions a 
marriage is entered gravely and with 
sincerity, and it constitutes a public 



statement of choice and — with the 
full implementation of a mature so- 
ciety — of inviolability. The lovely, 
ancient words "forsaking all others" 
spell out the nature of modern mar- 
riage, with the universally respected 
adjunct that fidelity is not a com- 
mand or a restriction, but a chosen 
path. Divorce is swift and simple, 
and — .almost unheard of. Married 
people live this way, single people 
live that way; the lines are drawn 
and deeply respeGted. People marry 
because they' intend to live within 
the limits of marriage. The fact that 
a marriage exists is complete proof 
that it is working. 

I had a word about marriage with 
Tween. Ran into her in the Gate 
corridor. I think she'd been in one 
of the ships again. If she was pale, 
her olive skin hid it. If her eyes 
were bloodshot, the lustrous ruby of 
her eyes covered it up. Maybe I saw 
her dragging her feet as she walked, 
or some such. I took her chin in my 
hand and tilted her head back. "Any 
dragons I can kill?" 

She gave me a brilliant smile 
which lived only on her lips. "I'm 
wonderful," she said bravely. 

"You are," I agreed. "Which 
doesn't necessarily have anything to 
do with the way you feel. I won't 
pry, child; but tell me — if you ever 
ate too many green apples, or 
stubbed your toe on a cactus, do you 
know a nice safe something you 
could hang on to while you cried it 
out?" 

"I do," she said breathlessly, mak- 



THE STARS ARE THE STYX 



89 



' 






ing the smile just as hard as she 
could. "Oh, I do." She patted my 
cheek. "You're . . . listen. Would 

you tell me something if I asked 

?»» 

"About certificates? No, Tween. 
Not about anyone else's certificate. 
But — all he has to do is complete 
his final hypnopediae, and he just 
hasn't showed up." 

She hated to hear it, but I'd made 
her laugh, too, a " little. "Do you 
read minds, the way they all say?" 

"I do not. And if I could, I 
wouldn't. And if I couldn't help 
reading 'em, I'd sure never act as if 
I could. In other words, no. It's just 
that I've been alive long enough to 
know what pushes people around. 
So's I don't care much about a per- 
son, I can judge pretty well what's 
bothering him. 

" 'Course," I added, "if I do give 
a damn, I can tell even better. 
Tween, you'll be getting married 
pretty soon, right?" 

Perhaps I shouldn't have said 
that. She gasped, and for a moment 
she just stopped making that smile. 



Then, "Oh, yes," she said brightly.- 
"Well, not exactly. What I mean 
is, when we go Out, you see, so we 
might as well not, and I imagine as 
soon as Wold gets his certificate, 
we'll ... we kind of feel going Out 
is the best — I seem to have gotten 
something in my eye. I'm s-sor. ..." 

I let her go. But when I saw 
Wold next — it was down in the 
Euphoria Sector — I went up to him 
very cheerfully. There are ways I 
feel sometimes that make me real 
jovial. 

I laid my hand on his shoulder. 
His back bowed a bit and it seemed 
to me I felt vertebrae grinding to- 
gether. "Wold, old boy," I said 
heartily. "Good to see you. You 
haven't been around much recently. 
Mad?" 

He pulled away from me. "A 
little," he said sullenly. His hair 
was too shiny and he had perfect 
teeth that always reminded me of a 
keyboard instrument. 

"Well, drop around," I said. "I 
like to see young folks get ahead. 
You," I added with a certain amount 



A DOWN-TO-MARS CONTEST 

WITH GENUINE SCIENCE FICTION PRIZES! . 
SEE WILLY LEY'S INTRODUCTION— PAGE 67 
CONTEST RULES— PAGE 75 
EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL LIST OF PRIZES— PAGE 71! 



90 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 






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' 



of emphasis, "have gone pretty damn 
far." 

"So have you," he said with even 
more emphasis. 

"Well,- then." I slapped him on 
the back. His eyeballs stayed in, 
which surprised me. "You can top 
me. You can go farther than I ever 
can. See you soon, old fellow." 

I WALKED off, feeling the cold 
brown points of his gaze. 

And as it happened, not ten min- 
utes later I saw that kakumba dance. 
I don't see much dancing usually, 
but there was an animal roar from 
the dance-chamber that stopped me, 
and I ducked in to see what had the 
public so charmed. 

The dance had gone through most 
of its figures, with the caller already 
worked up into a froth and only 
three couples left. As I shouldered 
my way to a vantage point, one of 
the three couples was bounced, leav- 
ing the two best. One was a tall 
blonde with periwigged hair and 
sub voltaic bracelets that passed and 
repassed a clatter of pastel arcs; she 
was dancing with one of the armor- 
monkeys from the Curbstone Hull 
Division, and they were good. 

The other couple featured a slen- 
der, fluid dark girl in an open tunic 
of deep brown. She moved so beau- 
tifully that I caught my breath, and 
watched so avidly that it was seconds 
before I realized that it was Flower. 
The reaction to that made me lose 
more seconds in realizing that her 
partner was Judson. Good as the 



other couple were, they were better. 
I'd tested Jud's reflexes, and they 
were phenomenal, but I'd had no 
idea he could respond like this to 
anything. 

The caller threw the solo light 
to the first couple. There was a wild 
burst of music a'nd the arc-wielding 
blonde and her arc- wielding boy 
friend cut loose in an intricate 
frenzy of disjointed limbs and half- 
beat stamping. So much happened 
between those two people so fast 
that I thpught they'd never get sep- 
arated when the music stopped. But 
they untangled right with the clos- 
ing bars, and a roar went up from 
the people watching them. And then 
the same blare of music was thrown 
at Jud and Flower. 

Judson simply stood" back and 
folded his arms, walking out a 
simple (figure to indicate that, hon- 
est, he was dancing, too. But he gave 
it all to Flower. 

Now I'll tell you what she did in 
a single sentence: she knelt before 
him and slowly stood up with her 
arms over her head. But words will 
never describe the process complete- 
ly. It took her about twelve min- 
utes to get all the way up. At the 
fourth minute the crowd began to 
realize that her body was trembling. 
It wasn't a wriggle or a shimmy, or 
anything as crude as that. It was a 
steady, apparently uncontrollable 
shiver. At about the eighth minute 
the audience began to realize it was 
controlled, and just how completely 
controlled it was. It was hypnotic, 



THE STARS ARE THE STYX 



91 



incredible. At the final crescendo 
she was on her tiptoes with her 
arms stretched high, and when the 
music stopped she made no flour- 
ish; she simply relaxed and stood 
still, smiling at Jud. Even from 
where I stood I could see the mois- 
ture onjud's face. 

A big man standing beside me 
grunted, a tight, painful sound. I 
turned to him; it was Clinton. Ten- 
sion crawled through his jaw-muscles 
like a rat under a rug. I put my 
hand on his arm. It was rocky. 
"Clint." * '• 

"Wh— oh. Hi." 

"Thirsty?" 

"No," he said. He turned back 
to the dance floor, searched it with 
his eyes, found Flower. 

"Yes, you are, son," I said. "Come 
on." 

"Why don't you go and—" He 
got hold of himself. "You're right. 
I am thirsty." 

We went to the almost deserted 
Card Room and dispensed ourselves 
some methyl-caffeine. I didn't say 
anything until we'd found a table. 
He sat stiffly looking at his drink 
without seeing it. Then he said, 
"Thanks." 

"For what?" 

"I was about to be real uncivilized 
in there." 

I just waited. 

He, said truculently, "Well, damn 
it, she's free to do what she wants, 
isn't she? She likes to dance — 'good. 
Why shouldn't she? Damn it, what 
is there to get excited about?" 



"Who's excited?" 

"It's that Judson. What's he have 
to be crawling around her all the 
time for? She hasn't done a damn 
thing about getting her certificate 
since he got here." He drank his 
liquor down at a gulp. It had no 
apparent effect, which meant some- 
. thing. 

"What had she done before he 
got here?" I asked quietly. When he 
didn't answer I said, "Jud's Out- 
bound, Clint. I wouldn't worry. I 
can guarantee Flower won't be with 
him when he goes, and that will be 
real soon. Hold on and wait." 

"Wait?" His lip curled. "I've 
been ready to go for weeks. I used 
to think of ... of Flower and me 
working together, helping, each 
other. I used to make plans for a 
celebration the day we got certified. 
I used to look at the stars and think 
about the net we'd help throw 
around them, pull 'em down, pack 
'em in a basket. Flower and me, back 
on Earth after six thousand years, 
watching humanity come into its 
own, knowing we'd done something 
to help. I've been waiting, and you 
say wait some more." 

"This," I said, "is what you call 
an unstable situation. It can't stay 
the way it is and it won't. Wait, I 
tell you: wait. There's got to be a 
blow-off." 
There was. 

IN MY office the chime sounded. 
Moira and Bill. Certificates de- 
nied to Hester, Elizabeth, Jenks, 



92 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



. 






'. 






Mella. Hester back to earth. Hallo- 
well and Letitia, marriage recorded. 
Certificates granted to Aaron, Mus- 
ette, n'Guchi, Mancinelli, Judson. 

Judson took the news quietly, 
glowing. I hadn't seen much of him 
recently. Flower took up a lot of his 
time, and training the rest. After he 
was certified and I'd gone with him 
to test the hand-scanner by the gate 
and give him his final briefing, he 
cut out on the double, I guess to 
. give Flower the great news. I re- 
member wondering how he'd like 
her reaction. 

WHEN I got back to my office 
Tween was there. She rose 
from the foyer couch as I wheezed in 
off the ramp. I took one look at her 
and said, "Come inside." She fol- 
lowed me through the inner door. I 
waved my hand over the infra-red 
plate and it closed. Then I out out 
my arms. 

She bleated like a new-born lamb 
and flew to me. Her tears were 
scalding, and I don't think human 
muscles are built for the wrenching 
those agonized sobs gave her. People 
should cry more. They ought to 
learn how to do it easily, like laugh- 
ing or sweating. Crying piles up. In 
people like Tween, who do nothing 
if they can't smile and make a habit- 
pattern of it, it really piles up. With 
a reservoir like that, and no de- 
veloped outlet, things get torn when 
the pressure builds too high. 

I just held her tight so she 
wouldn't explode. The only thing I 



said to her was "sh-h-h" once when 
she tried to talk while she wept. One 
thing at a time. 

It took a while, but when she was 
finished she was finished. She didn't 
taper off. She was weak from all 
that punishment, but calm. She 
talked. 

"He isn't a real thing at all," she' 
said bleakly. "He's something I 
made up out of starshine, out of 
wanting so much to be a part of 
something as big as this project. I 
never felt I had anything big about 
me except that. I wanted to join it 
with something bigger than I was, 
and, together, we'd build something 
so big that it would be worthv of 
Curbstone. 

"I thought it was Wold. I made 
it be Wold. Oh, none of this is his 
fault. I could have seen what he was, 
and I just wouldn't. What I did with 
him, what I felt for him, was just 
as crazy as if I'd convinced myself 
he had wings and then hated him 
because he wouldn't fly. He isn't 
anything but a h-hero. He struts to 
the newcomers and the rejected ones 
pretending he's a man who will one 
day give himself to humanity and 
the stars. He . . . probably believes 
that about himself. But he won't 
complete his training, and he . . . 
now I know, now I can see it — he 
tried everything he could think of 
to stop me from being certified. I 
was no use to him with a certificate. 
He couldn't treat me as his pretty, 
slightly stupid little girl, once I was 
certified. And he couldn't get his 



THE STARS ARE THE STYX 



93 



• ' 



own certificate because if" he did he'd 
have to go Out, one of these days, 
and that's something he can't face. 

"He — wants me to leave him. If 
I will, if it's my decision, he can 
wear my memory like a black band 
on his arm, and delude himself for 
the rest of his life that his succes- 
sion of women is just a search for 
something to replace me. Then he'll 
always have an excuse; he'll never, 
never have to risk his neck. He'll 
be the shattered hero, and women 
as stupid as I was will try to heal 
the wounds he's arranged for me 
to give him." 

"You don't hate him?" I asked 
her quietly. 

"No. Oh, no, no! I told you, it 
wasn't his fault. I — loved some- 
thing. A man lived in my heart, 
lived there for years. He had no 
name and no face. I gave him 
.Wold's name and Wold's face and 
just wouldn't believe it wasn't 
Wold. I did it. Wold didn't. I don't 
hate him. I don't like him. I just 
don't . . . anything," 

I PATTED her shoulder. "Good. 
You're cured. If you hated him, 
he'd still be important. What are 
you going to do?" 

"What shall I do?" 

"I'd never tell you what to do 
about a thing like this, Tween. You 
know that. You've got to figure out 
your own answers. I can advise you 
to use those new-opened eyes of 
yours carefully, though. And don't 
think that that man who lives in 



your heart doesn't exist anywhere 
else. He does. Right here on this 
station, maybe. You just haven't 
been able to see him before." 

"Who?" 

"God, girl, don't asl^ me that! 
Ask Tween next time you see her; 
no one will ever know for sure but 
Tween." 

You re so wise. . . . 

"Nah. I'm old enough to have 
made more mistakes than most peo- 
ple, that's all, and I have a good 
memory." 

She rose shakily. I put out a hand 
and helped her. "You're played out, 
Tween. Look — don't go back yet. 
Hide out for a few days and get 
some rest and do some thinking. 
There's a suite on this level. No one 
will bother you, and you'll find 
everything there you need, including 
silence and privacy." 

"That would be good," she said 
softly. "Thank you." 

"All right . . . listen. Mind if I 
send someone in to talk to you?" 

"Talk? Who?" 

"Let me play it as it comes." 

The ruby eyes sent a warm wave 
to me, and she smiled. I thought, I 
wish I was as confident of myself 
as she is of me. "It's 412," I said, 
"the third door to your left. Stay 
there as long as you want to. Come 
back when you feel like it." 

She came close to me and tried to 
say something. I thought for a sec- 
ond she was going to kiss me on 
the mouth. She didn't; she kissed 
my hand. "I'll swat your bottom!" 



94 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 






I roared, flustered. "Git, now, dam- 
mit!" She laughed . . . she always 
had a bit of laughter tucked away 
in her, no matter what, bless her 
cotton head. . . . 

As soon as she was gone, I turned 
to the annunciator and sent out a 
call for Judson. Hell, I thought, yon 
can try, can't you? Waiting, I 
thought about Judson' s hungry, up- 
ward look, and that hole in his 
head . . . that quality of Teachable- 
ness, and what happened when he 
was reached by the wrong thing. 
Lord, responsive people certainly 
make the worst damn fools of all! 

He was_ there in minutes, looking 
flushed, excited, happy, and worried 
all at once. "Was on my way here 
when your call went out," he said. 

«PJIT down, Jud. I have a small 

project in mind. Maybe you 
could help." 

He sat. I looked for just the right 
words to use. I couldn't say anything 
about Flower. She had her hooks 
% into him; if I said anything about 
her, he'd defend her. And one of 
the oldest phenomena in human re- 
lations is that we come to be very 
fond of the thing we find ourselves 
defending, even if we didn't like it 
before. I thought again of the hun- 
ger that lived in Jud, and what 
Tween might see of it with her 
newly opened eyes. 

"Jud—" 

"I'm married," he blurted. 

1 sat very still. I don't think my 
face did anything at all. 



"It was the right thing for me 
to do," he said, almost angrily. 
"Don't you see? You know what 
my problem is — it was you who 
found it for me. I was looking foe 
something that should belong to me 
... or something to belong to." 

"Flower," I said. 

"Of course. Who else? Listen, 
that girl's got trouble, too. What 
do you suppose blocks her from 
taking her certificate? She doesn't 
think she's worthy of it." 

My, I said. Fortunately, I said 
it to myself. 

Jud said, "No matter what hap- 
pens, J've done the right thing. If 
I can help her get her certificate, 
we'll go Out together, and that's 
what we're here for. If I can't help 
her do that, but find that she fills 
that place in me that's been so empty 
for so long, well and good — that's 
what I'm here for. We can go back 
to Earth and be happy." 

"You're quite sure of all this." 

"Sure I'm sure! Do you think I'd 
have gone ahead with the marriage 
if I weren't sure?" 

Sure you would, I thought. I said, 
"Congratulations, then. You know 
I wish you the best." 

He stood up uncertainly, started 
to say something, and apparently 
couldn't find it. He went to the 
door, turned back. "Will you come 
for dinner tonight?" I hesitated. He 
said, "Please. I'd appreciate it." 

I cocked an eyebrow. "Answer me 
straight, Jud. Is dinner your idea or 
Flower's?" 



THE STARS ARE THE STYX' 



95 



• 



" 



. 






He laughed embarrassedly. 
"Damn it, you always see too much. 
Mine . . . sort of ... I mean, it 
isn't that she dislikes you, but . . . 
well, hell, I want the two of you to 
be friends, and I think you'd under- 
stand her and me, too, a lot better 
if you made the effort." 
• I could think of things I'd much 
rather do than have dinner with 
Flower. A short swim in boiling oil, 
for example. I looked up at his 
anxious face. Oh, hell. "I'd love to," 
I said. "Around eight?" 

"Fine! Gee," he said, like a school 
kid. "Gee, thanks." He shuffled, not 
knowing whether to go right away 
or not. "Hey," he said suddenly. 
"You sent out a call for me. What's 
this project you wanted me for?" 

"Nothing, Jud," I said tiredly. 
"I've . . . changed my mind. See 
you later, son." 

THE dinner was something spe- 
cial. Steaks. Jud had broiled 
them himself. I got the idea that 
he'd selected them, too, and set the 
table. It was Flower, though, who 
got me something to sit on. She 
looked me over, slowly and without 
concealing it, went to the table, 
pulled the light formed-aluminum 
chair away, and dragged over a mas- 
sive relaxer. She then . smiled 
straight at me. A little unnecessary, 
I thought; I'm bulky, but those 
aluminum chairs have always held 
up under me so far. 

I won't give it to you round by 
round. The meal passed with Flower 



either in a sullen silence or manu- 
facturing small brittle whips of con- 
versation. When she was quiet, Jud 
tried to goad her into talking. When 
she talked, he tried to turn the con- 
versation away from me. The occa- 
sion, I think, was a complete suc- 
cess — for Flower. For Jud it must 
have been hell. For me — well, it was 
interesting. 

Item: Flower poked and prodded 
at her steak, and when she got a lull 
in the labored talk Jud and I were 
squeezing out, she began to cut me- 
ticulously around the edges of the 
steak. "If there is anything I can't 
stand the sight or the smell of," she 
said clearly, "it's fat." 

Item: She said, "Oh, Lord" this 
and "Lord sakes" that in a drawl 
that made it come out "Lard" every 
time. 

Item: I sneezed once. She 
whipped a tissue over to me swiftly 
and politely enough, and then said 
"Render unto sneezers . . . ." which 
stood as a cute quip until she 
nudged her husband and said, 
"Render/" at which point things got 
real hushed. 

Item: When she had finished, she 
leaned back and sighed. "If I ate 
like that all the time, I'd be as big 
as — " She looked straight at me and 
stopped. Jud, flushing miserably, 
tried to kick her under the table; 
I know, because it was me he 
kicked. Flower finished, " — as big 
as a lifeboat." But she kept looking 
at me, easily and insultingly. 

•Item — You get the idea. All I 



96 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



■ 



can say for myself is that I got 
through it all. I wouldn't give her 
the satisfaction of driving me out 
. until I'd had all she could give me. 
I wouldn't be overtly angry, because 
if I did, she'd present me to Jud 
ever after as the man who hated her. 
If Jud ever had wit enough, this 
evening could be remembered as the 
time she was insufferahly ^insulting, 
and that was all I wanted. 

It was over at last, and I made 
my excuses as late as I possibly 
could withbut staying overnight. As 
I left, she took Jud's arm and held 
it tight until I was out of sight, 
thereby removing the one chance he 
had to come along a little way and 
apologize to me. 

He didn't get close enough to 
speak to me for four days, and when 
he did, I had the impression that he 
had lied to be there, that Flower 
thought he was somewhere else. He 
said rapidly, "About the other night, 
you mustn't think that — " 

And I cut him off as gently and 
firmly as I could: "I understand it 
perfectly, Jud. Think a minute and 
you'll know that." 

"Look, Flower was just out of 
sorts. I'll work on her. Next time 
you come there'll be a real differ- 
ence. You'll see." 

"I'm sure I will, Jud. But drop 
it, will you? There's no harm done." 
And I thought, next time I come 
will be six months after the Out- 
bounders get back. That gives me 
sixty centuries or so to get case- 
hardened. 



ABOUT a week after Jud's "wed- 
ding, I was in the Upper Cen- 
tral corridor where it ramps into the 
Gate passageway. Now whether it 
was some sixth sense, or whether I 
actually did smell something, I don't 
know. I got a powerful, sourceless 
impression of methyl-caffeine in the 
air, and at the same time I looked 
down the passage and saw the Gate 
just closing. 

I got down there altogether too 
fast to do my leaky valves any good. 
I palmed the doors* open and 
sprinted across the court. When any- 
thing my size and shape gets to 
sprinting, it's harder to stop it than 
let it keep going. One of the ship 
ports was open and I was heading 
for it. It started to swing closed. I 
lost all thought of trying to slow 
down and put what little energy I 
could find into 'pumping my old 
legs faster. 

With a horrible slow-motion feel- 
• ing of disaster, I felt one toe tip my 
other heel, and my center of gravity 
began to move forward faster than 
I was traveling. I was in mid-air for' 
an age — long enough to chew and 
swallow a tongue — and then I hit 
on my stomach, rocked forward on 
my receding chest and two of my 
chins, and slid. I had my hands out 
in front of me. My left hit the bulk- 
head and buckled. My right shot 
through what was left of the open- 
ing of the door, which crunched 
shut on my forearm. Then my fore- 
head hit the sill and I blacked out. 

When the lights dimmed on 



THE STARS ARE THE STYX 



97 












■ 



again, I was spread out on a ship's 
bunk, apparently alone. My left arm 
hurt more than I could bear, and 
my right arm hurt worse, and both 
of them together couldn't" match 
what was going on in my head. 

A man appeared from the service 
cubicle when I let out a groan. He 
had a bowl of warm water and the 
ship's B first-aid kit in his hands. 
He crossed quickly to me, and began 
to stanch the blood from between 
some . of my chins. It wasn't until 
then that my blurring sight made 
out who he was. 

"Clinton, you hub-forted son of a 
bastich!" I roared at him. "Leave the 
chin alone and get some plexicaine 
into those arms!" 

HE HAD the gall to laugh at me. 
"One thing at a time, old man. 
You are bleeding. Let's try to be a 
patient, not an impatient." 

"Impatient, out-patient," I yelped, 
"get that plex into me! I am just 
not the strong, silent type!" 

"Okay, okay." He got the needle 
out of the kit, squirted it upward, 
and plunged it deftly into my arms. 
A good boy. He hit the bicep on 
one, the forearm on the other, and 
got just the right ganglia. The pain 
vanished. That left my head, but he 
fed me an analgesic and that cata- 
clysmic ache began to recede. 

"I'm afraid the left is broken," he 
said. "As for the right — well, if I 
hadn't seen that hand come crawling 
in over the sill like a pet puppy, and 
reversed the door control, I'd have 



cut your fingernails off clear up to 
the elbow. What in time did you 
think you were doing?" 

"I can't remember; maybe I've got 
a concussion. For some reason or 
other it seemed I had to look inside 
the ship. Can you splint this arm?" 
"Let's call the medic." 
"You can do just as well." 
He went for the C kit and got a 
traction splint out. He whipped the 
prepared cushioning around the 
swelling arm, clamped the ends of 
the splint at wrist and elbow, and 
played an infra-red lamp on it. In 
a few seconds the splint began to 
lengthen. When the broken forearm 
was a few millimeters longer than 
the other, he shut off the heat and 
the thermoplastic splint automatical- 
ly set and snugged into the cush- 
ioning. Clinton jthrew off the clamps. 
"That's good enough for now. AH 
right, are you ready to tell me what 
made you get in my way?" 
"No." 

"Stop trying to look like an inno- 
cent babe! Your stubble gives you 
away. You knew I was going to solo, 
didn't you?" 

"No one said anything to me." 

"No one ever has to," he said in 

irritation, and then chuckled. "Man, 

I wish I could stay -mad at you. All 

right — what next?" 

"You're not going to take off?" 
"With you in here? Don't be 
foolish. The station'd lose too much 
and I wouldn't be gaining a thing. 
Damn you! I'd worked up the most 
glamorous drunk on methyl-caffeine, 



98 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



and you had to get me all anxious 
and drive away the fumes. . . . Well, 
go ahead. I'll play it your way. What 
do we do?" 

"Stop trying to make a Machia- 
velli out of me," I growled. "Give 
me a hand back to my quarters and 
I'll let you go do whatever you 
want." 

"It's never that simple with you," 
he half -grinned. "Okay. Let's go." 

When I got to my feet — with 
more of his help than I like to ad- 
mit — my heart began to pound. He 
must have felt it, because he said 
nothing while We stood there and 
waited for it to behave itself. Clin- 
ton was a good lad. 4 

We negotiated the (fourt and the 

Gate all right, but slowly. When we 

gqt to the foot of my ramp, I shook 

f my head. "Not that," I wheezed. 

"Couldn't make it. Down this way." 

WE WENT down the lateral cor- 
ridor to 412. The door slid 
back for me. 
,. "Hi!" I called. "Company." 

"What? Who is it?" came the 
crystal voice. Tween appeared. "Oh 
— oh! I didn't want to see anyone 
just — why, what's happened?" 

My eyelids flickered. I moaned. 
Clinton said, "I think we better get 
him spread out. He's not doing so 
well." 

Tween ran to us and took my arm 
gently above the splint. They got me 
to a couch and I collapsed on it. 

"Damn him," said Clinton good- 
humoredly. "He seems to be work- 



ing full time to keep me from going 
Out." 

There was such a long silence 
that I opened one eye to look at 
them. Tween was staring at him as 
if she had never seen him before — 
as, actually, she hadn't, with her eyes 
so full of Wold. 

"Do you really want to go Out?" 
she asked softly. 

"More than. . . ." He looked at 
her hair, her lovely face. "I don't 
think I've seen you around much. 
You're — Tween, aren't you?" 

She nodded and they stopped 
talking. I snapped my eyes shut be- 
cause they were sure to look at me 
just for something to do. 

"Is he all right?" she asked. 

"I think he's — yes, he's asleep. 
Don't wonder. He's been through a 
lot." 

"Let's go in the other room where 
we can talk together without disturb- 
ing him." 

They closed the door. I could 
barely hear them. It went on for a 
long time, with occasional silences. 
Finally I heard what I'd been listen- 
ing for: "If it hadn't been for him, 
I'd be gone now. I was just about to 
solo." ' 

"No! Oh, I'm glad I'm glad 

you didn't." 

One of those silences. Then, "So 
am I, Tween. Tween. . . ." in a 
whisper of astonishment. 

I got up off the couch and silent- 
ly let myself out. I went back to my 
quarters, even managing to climb 
the ramp. I felt real fine. 



THE STARS ARE THE STYX 



99 



I HEARD an ugly rumor. 
I'd seen a lot and I'd done a 
lot, and I regarded myself as pretty 
shockproof, but this one jolted me 
to the core. I took refuge in the old 
ointment, "It can't be, it just can't 
be," but in my heart I knew it could. 

I got hold of Judson. He was 
hollow-eyed and much quieter than 
usual. I asked him what he was do- 
ing these days, though I knew. 

"Boning up on the fine points of 
astrogation," he told me. "I've never 
hit anything so fascinating. It's one 
thing to have the stuff shoveled into 
your head when you're asleep, and 
something else again to experience 
it all, note by note, like music." 

"But you're spending an awful 
lot of time in the archives, son." 

"It takes a lot of time." 

"Can't you study at home?" 

I think he only just then realized 
what I was driving at. "Look," he 
said quietly, "I have my troubles. I 
have things wrong with me. But I'm 
not blind. I'm not stupid. You 
wouldn't tell me to my face that I 
couldn't handle problems that are 
strictly my own, would you?" 

"I would if I were sure," I said. 
"Damn it, I'm not. And I'm not go- 
ing to pry for details." 

"I'm glad of that," he said sober- 
ly. "Now we don't have to talk 
about it at all, do we?" 

In spite of myself, I laughed 
aloud. 

"What's funny?" 

"I am, Jud, boy. I been — hand- 
led." 



He saw the point, and smiled a 
little with me. "Hell, I know what 
you've been hinting at. But you're 
not close enough to the situation to 
know all the angles. I am. When 
the time comes, I'll take care of it. 
Until then, it's no one's problem but 
my own." 

He picked up his star-chart reels 
and I knew that one single word 
more would be one too many. I 
squeezed his arm and let him go. 

Five people, I thought: Wold, 
Judson, Tween, Clinton, Flower. 
Take away two and that leaves three. 
Three's a crowd — in this case, a 
very explosive kind of crowd. 

Nothing, nothing justifies infidel- 
ity in a modern marriage. But the 
ugly rumors kept trickling in. 

"I want my certificate," Wold 
said. 

I looked up at him and a bushel 
of conjecture flipped through my 
mind. So you want your certificate? 
Why? And why just now, of all 
times? What can a man do with a 
certificate that he can't do without 
one — aside from going Out? Be- 
cause, damn you, you'll never go 
Out. Not of your own accord, you 
won't. 

All this, but none of "it slipped 
out. I said, "All right. That's what 
I'm here for, Wold." And we got 
to work. 

He worked hard, and smoothly 
and easily, the way he talked, the 
way he moved. I am constantly as- 
tonished at how small accomplished 
people can make themselves at times. 



100 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



He was certified easy as breathing. 
And can you believe it, I worked 
with him, saw how hard he was 
working, helped him through, and 
never realized what it was he was 
after? 

After going through the routines 
of certification for him, I wasn't 
happy. There was something wrong 
somewhere . . . something missing. 
This was a puzzle that ought to fall 
together easily, and it wouldn't. I 
wish — Lord, how I wish v I could 
have thought a little faster. 

I let a day go by after Wold was 
certified. I couldn't sleep, and I 
couldn't eat, and I couldn't analyze 
what it was that was bothering me. 
So I began to cruise, -to see if I 
could find out. 

I went to the archives, "Where's 
Judson ?'* 

The girl told me he hadn't been 
there for forty-eight hours. 

I looked in the Recreation Sec- 
tor, in the libraries, in the stereo and 
observation rooms. Some kind of 
rock-bottom good sense kept me 
from sending out a general call for 
him. But it began to be obvious that 
he just wasn't around. Of course, 
there were hundreds of rooms and 
corridors in Curbstone that were un- 
used — they wouldn't be used until 
the interplanetary project was com- 
pleted and the matter transmitters 
started working. But Jud wasn't the 
kind to hide from anything. 

I squared my shoulders and real- 
ized that I was doing a lot of specu- 
lation to delay looking in the 



obvious place. I think, more than 
anything else, I was afraid that he 
would not be there. . . . 

I passed my hand over the door 
announcer. In a moment she an- 
swered; she had apparently come in 
from the sun-field and hadn't both- 
ered to see who it was. She was 
warm brown from head to toe, all 
spring-steel and velvet. Her long 
eyes were sleepy and her mouth was 
pouty. But when she recognized me, 
she stood squarely in the doorway. 

I think that in the back of every 
human mind is a machine that works 
out all the answers and never makes 
mistakes. I think mine had had 
enough data to figure out what was 
happening, what was going to hap- 
pen, for a long while now. Only I 
hadn't been able to read the answer 
until now. Seeing Flower, in that 
split second, opened more than one 
door for me. . . . 

"You want something?" she 
asked. The emphasis was hard and 
very insulting. 

I went in. It was completely up 
to her whether she moved aside or 
was walked down. She moved aside. 
The door swung shut. 

"Where's Jud?" 

"I don't know." 

I LOOKED into those long secret 
eyes and raised my hand. I think 
I was going to hit her. Instead I put 
my hand on her chest and shoved. 
She fell, unhurt but terrified, across 
a relaxer. "What do you th — " 
"You won't see him again," I 



THE STARS ARE THE STYX 



101 



said, and my voice bounced harshly 
off the acoust- absorbing walls. "He's 
gone. They're gone." 

"They?" Her face went pasty un- 
der the deep tan. 

"You ought to be killed," I said. 
"But I think it's better if you live 
with it. You couldn't hold either 
of them, or anyone else." 

I went out. 

MY HEAD was buzzing and my 
knitting arm throbbed. I moved 
with utter certainty; never once did it 
occur to me to ask myself: "Why did 
I say that?'* All the ugly pieces made 
sense. 

I found Wold in the Recreation , 
Sector. He was tanked. I decided 
against speaking to him, went 
straight to the launching court .and 
tried the row of ship ports. There 
was no one there, no one in any of 
them. My eye must have photo- 
graphed something in the third ship, 
because I felt compelled to go back 
there and look again. 

I stared hard at the deep-flocked 
floor. The soft pile of it looked right 
and yet not- right. I went to the con- 
trol panel and unracked an emerg- 
ency torch, turned it to needle-focus 
and put it, lit, on the floor. A hori- 
zontal beam will tell you things no 
other light knows about. 

I turned the light on the door and 
slowly swung the sharp streak across 
the carpet. The monotone, amorph- 
ous surface took on streaks and 
ridges, shadows and shadings. A 
curved scuff inside. Two parallel 



ones, long, where something had 
been dragged. A blurred sector 
where something heavy had lain 
long enough to press the springy 
fibers down for a while, over by the 
left-hand bunk. 

I looked at the bunk. It was un- 
ruffled, which meant nothing; the 
resilient surface was meant to leave 
no impressions. But at the edge was 
a single rubbed spot, as if some- 
thing had spilled there and been 
wiped hard. 

I went to the service cubicle. 
Everything seemed in order, except 
one of the cabinet doors, which 
wouldn't quite close. I looked in- 
side. 

It was a food locker. The food 
was there all right, each container 
socketed in place in the prepared 
shelves. But on, between, and among 
them were micro-reels for the book 
projector. 

I frowned and looked further. 
Reels were packed into the disposal 
lock, the towel dispenser, the spare- 
parts chest for the air exchanger. 

Something was where the book- 
reels belonged, and the reels had 
been hidden by someone who could 
not leave them in sight or carry them 
off. 

And where did the reels belong? 

I went back to the central chamber 
and the left-hand bunk. I touched 
the stud that should have rolled the 
bunk outward, opening the top, so 
that the storage space under it could 
be reached. The bunk didn't move. 

I examined the stud. It was coated 



102 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



- 






■• 



. 






over with quick-setting leak-sealer. 
The stuff was tough but resilient. I 
got a steel rod and a hammer from 
the tool-rack and, placing the rod 
against the stud, hit it once. The 
leak-sealer cracked off. The bed 
rolled forward and opened. 

It was useless to move him or 
touch him, or, for that matter, to 
say anything. Judson was dead, his 
head twisted almost all the way 
around. His face was bluish and his 
eyes stared. He was pushed, jammed, 
wedged into the small space. 

I hit the stud again and the bunk 
rolled back. Moving without any 
volition that I could analyze, feel- 
ing nothing but a great angry numb- 
ness, I cleaned up. I put the rod 
and the hammer away and fluffed up 
the piling of the carpeting by the 
bunk. Then I went and stood' in 
the service cubicle and began to 
wait. 

Wait. Not just stay — wait. I knew 
he'd be back, just as I suddenly and 
belatedly understood what it was 
that every factor in five people had 
made inevitable. I was coldly hating 
myself for not having known it 
sooner. 

The great, the admirable, the ad- 
venturous in modern civilization 
were Outbounders. To one who 
wanted and needed personal power, 
there would be an ultimate goal, 
greater even than being an Out- 
bounder. And that would be to stand 
between an Outbounder and his des- . 
tiny. 

For months Flower had blocked 



Clinton. "When she saw she must 
ultimately lose him to the stars, she 
went hunting. She saw Judson — 
reachable, restless Jud — and she 
heard my assurance that he would 
soon go Out. Then and there Judson 
was doomed. 

Wold needed admiration the way 
Flower needed power. To be an Out- 
bounder and wait for poor strug- 
gling Tween suited him perfectly. 
Tween's certification gave him no 
alternative but to get rid of her; he 
couldn't bring himself to go Out 

Once I had taken care of Tween 
for him, there remained one person 
on the entire project who could keep 
him from going Out — and she was 
married to Jud. Having married, Jud 
would stay married. Wold did what 
he could to smash that marriage. 
When Jud still hung on, wanting 
to help Flower, wanting to show me 
that he had made the right choice, 
there remained one alternative for 
Wold. Evidence of that lay cramped 
and staring under the bunk. 

But Wold wasn't finished. He 
wouldn't be finished while Jud's 
body remained on Curbstone. In 
Wold's emotional state, he would 
have to go somewhere and drink to 
figure out the next step. There was 
no way of sending a ship Out with- 
out riding it. So — I waited. 

- 

HE CAME back all right. I was 
cramped, then, and one foot 
was asleep. I curled and uncurled 
the toes frantically when I saw the 
door begin to move, and tried to 



THE STARS ARE THE STYX 



103 



- 

■ 

i 



flatten my big bulk back down out 
of sight. 

He was breathing hard. He put 
his lips together and blew like a 
winded horse, wiped his lips on his 
forearm. He seemed to have diffi- 
culty in focusing his eyes. I won- 
dered how much liquor he had 
poured into that empty place where 
most men keep their courage. 

He took a fine coil of single- 
strand plastic cord out of his belt- 
pouch. Fumbling for the end, he 
found it and dropped the coil., With 
the exaggerated care of a drunk, he 
threw a bowline artd drew the loop 
tight, pulled the bight through the 
loop so he had a running noose. He 
made this fast to a triangular bracket 
over the control panel, led it along 
the edge of the chart-rack and down 



to the launching control lever. He 
bent two half-hitches in the cord, 
slipped it over the end of the lever 
and drew it tight. The cord now 
bound the lever in the up — "off" — 
position. 

From the bulkhead he unfastened 
the clamps which held the heavy- 
duty fire extinguisher and lifted it 
down. It weighed half as much as 
he did. He set it on the floor in 
front of the control panel, brought 
the dangling end of the cord 
through the U-shaped clamp gud- 
geons on the extinguisher, took a 
loose half-hitch around the bight, 
and, lifting the extinguisher between 
his free arm and his body, pulled 
the knot tight. Another half-hitch 
secured it. 

Now the heavy extinguisher dan- 



In Next Month's GALAXY Science Fiction 

Two Important Novelets: 

/ TRANSFER POINT, by Anthony Boucher 
/ HONEYMOON IN HELL, by Fredric Brown 

Exciting Short Stories: 

/ MISBEGOTTEN MISSIONARY, by Isaac Asimov 
/ COMING ATTRACTION, by Fritz Leiber 
/ JAYWALKER, by Ross Rocklynne 
/ And Other Shorts and Features 

Plus the Second Great Installment of: 

/ TIME QUARRY, by Clifford D. Simak 

-► If you miss an issue of GALAXY Science Fiction, you're missing 
adult stories for adult readers . . . the best in science fiction! 

ft SUBSCRIBE TODAY! ft 



104 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



gled in mid-air under the control 
panel. The cord which supported it 
ran up to the handle of the launch- 
ing lever and from there, bending 
over the edge of the chart-rack, to 
the bracket. 

Panting, Wold took out a ciga- 
rette and shook it alight. He drew 
on it hungrily, and then put it on 
the chart-rack, resting it against the 
plastic cord. 

When the cigarette burned down 
to the cord, the thermoplastic would 
melt through with great enthusiasm. 
The cord would break, the extin- 
guisher would fall, dragging the 
lever down. And Out would go all 
the evidence, to be hidden forever, 
as far as Wold was concerned, and 
6,000 years from anyone else. 

Wold stepped back to survey his 
work just as I stepped forward out 
of the service cubicle. I brought up 
my broken arm and swung it with 
all my weight — and that is really 
weight — against the side of his head. 
The cast, though not heavy, was 
hard, and it must have hit him like 
a crowbar. 

He went down like an elevator, 
hitched to his knees, and for a sec- 
ond seemed about to topple. His 
head sagged. He shook it, slowly 
looked up and saw me. 

"I could use one of those needle- 
guns," I said. "Or I could kick you 
cold and let Coordination handle 
you. There are regulations for things 
like- you. But I'd rather do it this 
way. Get up." 
I never. . . . 



"Get up!" I bellowed, and 
kicked at him. 

He threw his arms around my leg 
and rolled. As I started down, I 
pulled the leg in close and whipped 
it out again. We both hit with a 
crash on opposite sides of the room. 
The bunk broke my fall; he was not 
so lucky. He rose groggily, sliding 
his back up the door. I lumbered 
across, deliberately crashed into him, 
and heard ribs crack as the wind 
gushed out of his lungs. 

I STOOD back a little as he began 
to sag. I hit him savagely in the 
face, and his face came back and 
hit my hahd again as his head 
bounced off the door. I let him fall, 
then knelt beside him. 

There are things you can do to 
a human body if you know enough 
physiology — pressures on this and 
that nerve center which paralyze and 
cramp and immobilize whole motor- 
trunk systems. I did these things, 
and got up, finally, leaving him 
twisted, sweating in agony. I 
wheezed over to the control bank 
and looked critically at the smolder- 
ing cigarette. Less than a minute. 

"I know you can hear me," I 
whispered with what breath I could 
find. "I'd . . . like you to know . . . 
that you'll be a hero. Your name will 
... be on the Great Roll of the 
. . . Outbounders. You always . . . 
wanted that without any . . . effort 
on your part . . . now you've got it." 

I went out. I stopped and leaned 
back against the wall beside the 



THE STARS ARE THE STYX 



105 



door. In a few seconds it swung 
silently shut. I forced back the 
waves of gray that wanted to engulf 
me, turned and peered into the port. 
It showed only blackness. 

Jud . . . Jud, boy . . . you always 
wanted it, too. You almost got 
cheated out of it. You'll be all right 



now, son. 



I TOTTERED across the court and 
out the gate. There was someone 
standing there. She flew to me, 
pounded my chest with small hard 
hands.- "Did he go? Did he really 
go?" 

I brushed her off as if she had 
been a midge, and closed one eye so 
I could get a single image. It was 
Flower, without her come-on tunic. 
Her hair was disarrayed and her 
eyes were bloodshot. 

"They left," I croaked. "I told 
you they would. Jud and Wold . . . 
you couldn't stop them." 

"Together? They left together?* 

"That's what Wold got certified 
for." I looked bluntly up and down 
her supple body. "Like everybody 
else who goes Out together, they 
had something in common." 

I pushed past her and went back 
to my office. Lights were blazing 
over the desk. Judson and Wold. 
Ship replaced. Quarters cleaned. 
Palm-key removed and filed. I sat 
and looked blindly until they were 
all lit and the board blanked out. 

I thought, this pump of mine 
won't last much longer under this 
kind of treatment. 



I thought, I keep convincing my- 
self that I handle things impartially 
and fairly, without getting involved. 

I felt bad. Bad. 

I thought, this is a job without 
authority, without any real power. I 
certify 'em, send 'em along, check 
'em out. A clerk's job. And be- 
cause of that I have to be God. I 
have to make up my own justice, 
and execute it myself. Wold was no 
threat to me or to Curbstone, yet it 
was in me to give oblivion to him 
and purgatory to Flower. 

I felt frightened and disgusted 
and- puny. 

Someone came in, and I looked 
up blindly. For a moment I could 
make out nothing but a .silver-haloed 
figure and a muted, wordless mur- 
muring. I forced my eyes to focus, 
and I had to close them again, as 
if I had looked into the sun. 

Her hair was unbound beneath a 
diamond ring that circled her brows. 
The silver silk cascaded about her, 
brushing the floor behind her, man- 
tling her warm-toned shoulders, 
capturing small threads of light and 
weaving them in and about the 
gleaming light that was her hair. 
Her deep pigeon's-blood eyes shone 
and her lips trembled. 
Tween. . . . 

The soft murmuring became 
words, laughter that wept with hap- 
piness, small shaking syllables of 
rapture. "He's waiting. He wanted 
to say good-by to you, too . . . but 
he asked me to do it for him. He 
said you'd like that better." 



106 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



JL could only nod. 

She came close to the desk. "I 
love him. I love him more than I 
thought anyone could. Somehow, 
loving him that much, I can . 
love you, too.." 

Shd bent over the desk and kissed 
my mouth. Her lips were cool. She 
— blurred then. Or maybe it was my 
eyes. When I could see again, she 
was gone. 

The chime, and the lights, one 
after another. 

Marriage recorded. . . . 

Suddenly I relaxed and I knew 
I could live with the viciousness of 
what I had done to Wold and to 
Flower. It had been my will that 
Judson go Out, and that Tween be 
happy, and I had been crossed, and 



I had taken vengeance. And that 
was small, and decidedly human — 
not godlike at all. 

So, I thought, every day I find 
something out about people. And, 
today, I'm people. I felt the pudgy 
lips that Tween had kissed. I'm old 
and I'm fat, I thought, and by the 
Lord, I'm ^eot>le. 

When they call me Charon, they 
forget tvhat it must be like to he 
dented both worlds instead of only 
one. 

And they forget the other thing — 
the little-known fragment of the 
Charon legend. To the Etruscans, he 
was more than a ferryman. 

He teas an executioner. 

—THEODORE STURGEON 



FORECAST 

Next month's installment of Clifford D. Simak's novel, "Time Quarry," devel- 
ops adrenal-agitating momentum. The plot against Asher Sutton, returned to Earth 
after 20 years to find himself sentenced to assassination, becomes a savagely civil- 
ized — and worriedly meticulous — war against a simple idea with stupendous impli- 
cations. "Time Quarry," incidentally, will be published early next year by Simon 6C 
Schuster, in exactly the form in which it appears in GALAXY Science Fiction, 
with minor editing differences. Our policy will continue to be to publish all book- 
length novels complete. 

Anthony Boucher, after editing and reviewing science fiction, finally resumes 
writing it. His novelet, "Transfer Point," about the Last Man on Earth, who wasn't 
actually, and the Last Woman, who should have been, makes us wonder what 
superb stories we've missed these past few years. We'll keep him writing. . . . 

Fredric Brown, between novels, found time to do two yarns, and we bought 
both. The second, "Honeymoon in Hell," resolves a problem currently coloring 
the front pages, and does so by a crisis in the maternity rooms and the willing, even 
eager, cooperation of two bitter and attractive enemies.^ 

Short stories include "Coming Attraction" by Fritz Leiber, a piece of shock 
writing that may turn out to be more than fiction; Isaac Asimov's chillingly charm- 
ing "Misbegotten Missionary," an altruistic little creature with an unwittingly 
alarming message to preach . . . and enforce; "Jaywalker" by Ross Rocklynne, which 
proves that a challenge to death is the paradoxical answer to widowhood; plus 
whatever other shorts we can squeeze in with our regular features. We can see a 
good many of our short stories, the stuff of which s-f anthologies are made, appear- 
ing in hard covers before too long. We approve; they are important enough to be 
in permanent form, along with our novels. But read them here first. 



THE STARS ARE THE STYX 



107 



' 



Later 

Than 

You 

Think 




By FRITZ LE1BER ^ 

It's much later. The question is. ..how late? 



OBVIOUSLY the Archeolo- 
gist's study belonged to an 
era vastly distant from today. 
Familiar similarities here and there 
only sharpened the feeling of alien- 
age. The sunlight that filtered 
through the windows in the ceiling 
had a wan and greenish cast and 
was augmented by radiation from 
some luminous material impregnat- 
ing the walls and floor. Even the 
wide desk and the commodious has- 
socks glowed with a restful light. 
Across the former were scattered 
metal-backed wax tablets, styluses, 
and a pair of large and oddly 
formed spectacles. The crammed 
bookcases were not particularly un- 
usual, but the books were bound in 
metal and the script on their spines 
would have been utterly unfamiliar 
to the most erudite of modern lin- 
guists. One of the books, lying open 
on a hassock, showed leaves of a 
thin, flexible, rustless metal covered 



with luminous characters. Between 
the bookcases were phosphorescent 
oil paintings, mainly of sea bottoms, 
in somber greens and browns. Their 
style, neither wholly realistic nor ab- 
stract, would have baffled the his- 
torian of art. 

A blackboard with large colored 
crayons hinted equally at the school- 
room and the studio. 

In the center of the room, midway 
to the ceiling, hung a fish with irri- 
descent scales of breathtaking beauty. 
So invisible was its means of sup- 
port that — also taking into account 
the strange paintings and the green- 
ish light — one would have sworn 
that the object was to create an un- 
derwater scene. 

The Explorer made his entrance 
in a theatrical swirl of movement. 
He embraced the Archeologist with 
a warmth calculated to startle that 
crusty old fellow. Then he settled 
himself on a hassock, looked up and 



108 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



asked a question in a speech and 
idiom so different from any we know 
that it must be called another means 
of communication rather than an- 
other language. The import was, 
"Well, what about it?" 

If the Archeologist were taken 
aback, he concealed it. His expres- 
sion showed only pleasure at being 
reunited with a long-absent friend. 
"What about what?" he queried. 
"About your discovery!" 
"What discovery?" The Archeolo- 
gist's incomprehension was playful. 
The Explorer threw up his arms. 
"Why, what else but your discovery, 
here on Earth, of the remains of an 
intelligent species? It's the find of 
the age! Am I going to have to coax 
you? Out with it!" 

"I didn't make the discovery," the 
other said tranquilly. "I only super- 
vised the excavations and directed 
the correlation of material. You 
ought to be doing the talking. 
You're the. one who's just returned 
from the stars." 

"Forget that." The Explorer 
brushed the question aside. "As soon 
as our spaceship got within radio 
range of Earth, they started to send 
us a continuous newscast covering 
the period of our absence. One of 
the items, exasperatingly brief, men- 
tioned your discovery. It captured 
my imagination. I couldn't wait to 
hear the details." He paused, then 
confessed, "You get so eager out 
there in space — a metal-filmed drop- 
let of life lost in immensity. You 
rediscover your emotions. . . ." He 



changed color, then finished rapidly, 
"As soon as I could decently get 
away, I came straight to you. I 
wanted to hear about it from the 
best authority — yourself." 

THE Archeologist regarded him 
quizzically. "I'm pleased that 
you should < think of me arid my 
work, and I'm very happy to see 
you again. But admit it now, isn't 
there something a bit odd about your 
getting so worked up over this 
thing? I can understand that after 
your long absence from Earth, any 
news of Earth would seem espe- 
cially important. But isn't there an 
additional reason?" 

The Explorer twisted impatiently. 
"Oh, I suppose there is. Disappoint- 
ment, for one thing. We were hop- 
ing to get in touch with intelligent 
life out there. We were specially 
trained in techniques for establish- 
ing mental contact with alien intelli- 
gent life forms. Well, we found 
some planets with life upon them, 
all right. But it was primitive life, 
not worth bothering about." 

Again he hesitated embarrassed- , 
ly. "Out there you get to thinking 
of the preciousness of intelligence. 
There's so little of it, and it's so 
lonely. And we so greatly need in- 
tercourse with another intelligent 
species to give depth and balance to 
our thoughts. I suppose I set too 
much store by my hopes of estab- 
lishing a contact." He paused. "At 
any rate, when I heard that what we 
were looking for, you had found 



LATER THAN YOU THINK 



109 



here at home — even though dead 
and done for — I felt that at least it 
was something. I was suddenly very 
eager. It is odd, I know, to get so 
worked up about an extinct species 
— as if my interest could\ mean any- 
thing to them now — but that's the 
way it hit me." 

SEVERAL small shadows crossed 
the windows overhead. They 
might; have been birds, except they 
moved too slowly. 

"I think I understand," the Arch- 
eologist said softly. 

"So get on with it and tell me 
about your discovery!" the Explorer 
exploded. 

"I've already told you that it 
wasn't my discovery," the Archeolo- 
gist reminded him. "A few years 
after your expedition left, there was 
begun a detailed resurvey of 
Earth's mineral resources. In the 
course of some deep continental bor- 
ings, one party discovered a cache — 
either a very large box or a rather 
small room — with metallic walls of 
great strength and toughness. Evi- 
dently its makers had intended it 
for the very purpose of carrying a 
message down through the ages. It 
proved to contain artifacts; models 
of buildings, vehicles, and machines, 
objects of art, pictures, and books — 
hundreds of books, along with 
elaborate pictorial dictionaries for 
interpreting them. So now we even 
understand their languages." 

"Languages?" interrupted the Ex- 
plorer. "That's queer. Somehow one 



thinks of an alien species as having 
just one language." 

"Like our own, this species had 
several, though there were some 
words and symbols that were alike 
in all their languages. These words 
and symbols seem to have come 
down unchanged from their most 
distant prehistory." 

The Explorer burst out, "I am 
not interested in all that dry stuff! 
Give me the wet! What were they 
like? How did they live? What did 
they create? What did they want?"' 

The Archeologist gently waved 
aside the questions. "All in good 
time. If I am to tell you everything 
you want to know, I must tell it my 
own way. Now that you are back on 
Earth, you will have to reacquire 
those orderly and composed habits 
of thought which you have partly 
lost in the course of your wild inter- 
stellar adven tarings . ' ' 

"Curse you, I think you're just 
trying to tantalize me." 

The Archeologist's expression 
showed that this was not altogether 
untrue. He casually fondled an ani- 
mal that had wriggled up onto his 
desk, and which looked rather more 
like an eel than a snake. "Cute little 
brute, isn't it?" he remarked. When 
it became apparent that the Explorer 
wasn't to be provoked into another 
outburst, he continued, "It became 
my task to interpret the contents of 
the cache, to reconstruct its makers' 
climb from animalism and savagery 
to civilization, their rather rapid 
spread across the world's surface, 



110 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



'2 . 






*v 



their first fumbling attempts to 
escape from, the Earth." 

«mHEY had spaceships?" 

-L "It's barely possible. I rather 
hope they did, since it would mean 
the chance of a survival elsewhere, 
though the negative results of your 
expedition rather lessen that." He 
went on, '"Hie cache was laid down 
when they were first attempting 
space flight, just after their discovery 
of atomic power,, in the first flush of 
their youth. It was probably created 
in a kind of exuberant fancifulness, 
with no serious belief that it would 
ever serve the purpose for which it 
was intended." iHe looked at the 
Explorer strangely. "If 1 am not mis- 
taken, we have laid down similar 
caches." 

After a moment the Archeologist 
continued, "My reconstruction of 
their history, subsequent to the lay- 
ing down of the cache, has been 
largely hypothetical. I can only guess 
at the reasons for their decline and 
fall. Supplementary material has 
been very slow in coming in, though 
we are still making extensive exca- 
vations at widely separated points. 
Here are the last reports." He tossed 
the Explorer a small metal-leaf 
pamphlet. It flew with a curiously 
slow motion. 

"That's what struck me so queer 
right from the start," the Explorer 
observed, putting the pamphlet 
aside after a glance. "If these crea- 
tures were ^relatively advanced, why 
haven't we learned about them be- 

LATER THAN YOU THINK 



iore? They must have left so many 
things — buildings, machines, en- 
gineering projects, some of them on 
a large scale. You'd think we'd be 
turning up traces everywhere." 

"I have four answers to that," the 
Archeologist replied. "The first is 
the most obvious. Time. Geologic 
ages of it. The second is more 
subtle. What if we should have been 
looking in the wrong place? I mean, 
what if the creatures occupied a very 
different portion of the Earth than 
our own? Third, it's possible that 
atomic energy, out of control, fin- 
ished the race and destroyed its 
traces. The present distribution of 
radioactive compounds throughout 
the Earth's surface lends some sup- 
port to this theory. 

"Fourth," he went on, "it's my 
belief that when an intelligent spe- 
cies begins to retrogress, it tends to 
destroy, or, rather, debase all the 
things it has laboriously created. 
Large buildings are torn down to 
make smaller ones. Machines are 
broken up and worked into primitive 
tools and weapons. There is a kind 
of unraveling or erasing. A cultural , 
Second Law of Thermodynamics be- 
gins to operate, whereby the intel- 
lect and all its works are gradually 
degraded to the lowest level of 
meaning and creativity." 

""OUT why?" The Explorer 

-L* sounded anguished. "Why 
should any intelligent species end 
like that? I grant the possibility of 
atomic power getting out of hand, 

111 



though one would have thought . 
they'd have taken the greatest pre- 
cautions. Still, it could happen. But 
that fourth answer — it's morbid." 

"Cultures and civilizations die," 
said the Archeologist evenly. "That 
has happened repeatedly in our own 
history. Why not species? An in- 
dividual dies — and is there anything 
intrinsically more terrible in the 
death of a species than in the death 
of an individual?" 

He paused. "With respect to the 
members of this one species, I think 
that a certain temperamental insta- 
bility hastened their end. Their 
appetites and emotions were not 
sufficiently subordinated to their un- 
derstanding and to their sense of 
drama — their enjoyment of the 
comedy and tragedy of existence. 
They were impatient and easily in- 
capacitated by frustration. They 
seem to have been singularly guilty 
in their pleasures, behaving either 
like gloomy moralists or gluttons. 

"Because of taboos and an over- 
grown possessiveness," he continued, 
"each individual tended to limit his 
affection to a tiny family; in many 
cases he focused his love on himself 
alone. They set great store by per- 
sonal prestige, by the amassing of 
wealth and the exercise of power. 
Their notable capacity for thought 
and manipulative activity was ex- 
pended on things rather than per- 
sons or feelings. . Their technology 
outstripped their psychology. They 
skimped fatally when it came to 
hard thinking about the purpose of 



life and intellectual activity, and the 
means for preserving them."" 

Again the slow shadows drifted 
overhead. 

"And finally," the Archeologist 
said, "they were a strangely haunted 
species. They seem to have been 
obsessed by the notion that others, 
greater than themselves, had pros- 
pered before them and then died, 
leaving them to rebuild a civilization 
from ruins. It was from those others 
that they thought they derived the 
few words and symbols common to 
all their languages." 

"Gods?" mused the Explorer. . 

The Archeologist shrugged. 
"Who knows?" " 

THE Explorer turned away. His 
excitement had visibly evapor- 
ated, leaving behind a cold and 
miserable residue of feeling. "I am 
not sure I want to hear much more 
about them," he said. "They sound 
too much like us. Perhaps it was a 
mistake, my coming here. Pardon 
me, old friend, but out there in 
space even our emotions become un- 
disciplined. Everything becomes in- 
describably poignant. Moods are 
tempestuous. You shift in an instant 
from zenith to nadir — -and remem-. 
ber, out there you can see both. 

"I. was very eager to hear about 
this lost species," he a Jded in a sad 
voice. "I thought I would feel a 
kind of fellowship with them across 
the eons. Instead, I. touch only 
corpses. It reminds me of when, out 
in space, there looms up before your 



112 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



• - 

■ 

prow, faint in the starlight, a dead 
sun. They were a young race. They 
thought they were getting some- 
where. They promised themselves an 
eternity of effort. And all the while 
there was wriggling toward them 
out of that future for which they 
yearned . . . oh, it's so completely 
futile and unfair." 

"I disagree/' the Archeologist 
said spiritedly. "Really, your ab- 
sence from Earth has unsettled you 
even more than I first surmised. 
Look at the matter squarely. Death 
comes to everything in the end. Our 
past is strewn with our dead. That 
species died, it's true. But what they 
achieved, they achieved. What hap- 
piness they had, they had. What 
they did in their short span is as 
significant as what they might have 
done had they lived a billion years. 
The present is always more impor- 
tant than the future. And no creature 
can have all the future — it must be 
shared, left to others." 

"Maybe so," the Explorer said 
slowly. "Yes, I guess you're right. 
But I still feel a horrible wistful- 
ness about them, and I hug to myself 
the hope that a few of them escaped 
and set up a colony on some planet 
we haven't yet visited." There was 
. a long silence. Then the Explorer 
turned back. "You old devil," he 
said in a manner that showed his- 
gayer and more boisterous mood had 
returned, though diminished, "you 
still haven't told me anything defi- 
nite about them." 

"So I haven't," replied the Arch- 



eologist with guileful innocence. 
"Well, they were 'vertebrates." 

"Oh?" 

"Yes. What's more, they were 
mammals." 

"TV TAMMALS? I was expecting 

lYi. something different." 

"I thought you were." 

The Explorer shifted. "All this 
matter of evolutionary categories is 
pretty cut-and-dried. Even a knowl- 
edge of how they looked doesn't 
mean much. I'd like to approach 
them in a more intimate way. How 
did they think of themselves? What 
did they call themselves? I know 
the word won't mean anything to 
me, but it will give me a feeling — 
of recognition." 

"I can't say the word," the Arch- 
eologist told him, "because I haven't 
the proper vocal equipment. But I 
know enough of their script to be 
able to write it for you as they would 
have written it. Incidentally, it is 
one of those words common to all 
their languages, that they attributed 
to an earlier race of beings." 

The Archeologist extended one of 
his eight tentacles toward the black- 
board. The suckers at its tip firmly 
grasped a bit of orange crayon. An- 
other of his tentacles took up the 
spectacles "and adjusted them over his 
three-inch protruding pupils. 

The eel-like glittering pet drifted 
back into the room and nosed cur- 
iously about the crayon as it traced: 

RAT 
—FRITZ LEIBER 



LATER THAN YOU THINK 



113 




114 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 




CONTAGION 

By KATHERINE Mac LEAN 



Minos was such a lovely planet. Not 

a thing seemed wrong with it. Excepting the 

food, perhaps. And a disease that wasn't really. 



IT WAS like an Earth forest in 
the fall, but it was not fall. The 
forest leaves were green and 
copper and purple and fiery red, and 
a wind sent patches of bright green- 
ish sunlight dancing among the leaf 
shadows. 

The hunt party of the Explorer 
filed along the narrow trail, guns 
ready, walking carefully, listening 
to the distant, half familiar cries of 
strange birds. 

A ^aint crackle of static in their 
earphones indicated that a gun had 
been fired. 

"Got anything?" asked June 
Walton. The helmet intercom car- 



ried her voice to the ears of the 
others without breaking the stillness 
of the forest. 

"Took a shot at something," ex- 
plained George Barton's cheerful 
voice in her earphones. She rounded 
a bend of the trail and came upon 
Barton standing peering up into the 
trees, his gun still raised. "It looked 
like a duck." 

"This isn't Central Park," said 
Hal Barton, his brother, coming into 
sight. His green spacesuit struck an 
incongruous note against the bronze 
and red forest. "They won't all look 
like ducks," he said soberly. 

"Maybe some will look like drag- 




CONTAGION 



US 












ons. Don't get eaten by a dragon, 
June," came Max's voice quietly into 
her earphones. "Not while I still 
love you." He came out of the trees 
carrying the blood sample kit, and 
touched her glove with his, the grin 
on his ugly beloved face barely 
visible in the mingled light and 
shade. A patch of sunlight struck a 
greenish glint from his fishbowl hel- 
met. 

THEY walked on. A quarter of a 
mile back, the space ship Ex- 
plorer towered over the forest like a 
tapering skyscraper, and the people 
of the ship looked out of the view- 
plates at fresh winds and sunlight 
and clouds, and they longed to be 
outside. 

But the likeness to Earth was 
danger, and the cool wind might be 
death, for if the animals were like 
Earth animals, their diseases might 
be like Earth diseases, alike enough 
to be contagious, different enough 
to be impossible to treat. There was 
warning enough in the past. Col- 
onies had vanished, and traveled 
spaceways drifted with the corpses 
of ships which had touched on some 
plague planet. 

The people of the ship waited 
while their doctors, in airtight 
spacesuits, hunted animals to test 
them for contagion. 

The four medicos, for June Wal- 
ton was also a doctor, filed through 
the alien homelike forest, walking 
softly, watching for motion among 
the copper and purple shadows. 



They saw it suddenly, a lighter ■ 
moving copper patch among the 
darker browns. Reflex action swung 
June's gun into line, and behind her 
someone's gun went off with a faint 
crackle of static, and made a hole 
in the leaves beside the specimen. 
Then for a while no one moved. 

This one looked like a man, a 
magnificently muscled, leanly grace- 
ful, humanlike animal. Even in its 
callused bare feet, it was a head 
taller than any of them. Red-haired, 
hawk-faced and darkly tanned^ it 
stood breathing heavily, looking at 
them without expression. At its side 
hung a sheath knife, and a crossbow 
was slung across one wide shoulder. 

They lowered their guns. 

"It needs a shave," Max said 
reasonably in their earphones, and 
he reached up to his helmet and 
flipped the switch that let his voice 
be heard. "Something we could do 
for you, Mac?" 

The friendly drawl was the first 
voice that had broken the forest 
sounds. June smiled' suddenly. He 
was right. The strict logic of evolu- 
tion did not demand beards; there- 
fore a non-human would not be 
wearing a three day growth of red 
stubble. 

Still panting, . the tall figure 
licked .dry lips and spoke. "Wel- 
come to Minos. The Mayor sends 
greetings from Alexandria." 

"English?" gasped Jane. 

"We were afraid you would take 
off again before I could bring word 
to you. . . . It's three hundred 



116 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



miles. . . . We saw your scout plane 
pass twice, but we couldn't attract 
its attention." 

JUNE looked in stunned silence 
at the stranger leaning against 
the tree. Thirty-six light years — 
thirty-six times six trillion miles of 
monotonous space travel — to be 
told that the planet was already 
settled! "We didn't know there was 
a colony here," she said. "It is not 
on the map." 

"We were afraid of that," the tall 
bronze man answered soberly. "We 
have been here three generations and 
yet no traders have come." 

Max shifted the kit strap on his 
shoulder and offered a hand. "My 
name is Max Stark, M.D. This is 
June Walton, M.D., Hal Barton, 
M.D., and George Barton, Hal's 
brother, also M.D." 

"Patrick Mead is the name," 
smiled the man, shaking hands cas- 
ually. "Just a hunter and bridge 
carpenter myself. Never met any 
medicos before." 

The grip was effortless but even 
through her airproofed glove June 
could feel that the fingers that 
touched hers were as hard as pad- 
ded sjteel. 

"What — what is the population 
of Minos?" she asked. 

He looked down at her curiously 
for a moment before answering. 
"Only one hundred and fifty." He 
smiled. "Don't worry, this isn't a 
city planet yet. There's room for a 
few more people." He shook hands 



with the Bartons quickly. "That is — 
you are people, aren't you?" he 
asked startlingly. 

"Why not?" said Max with a 
poise that June admired. 

"Well, you are all so — so — " Pat- 
rick Mead's eyes roamed across the 
faces of the group. "So varied." 

They could find no meaning in 
that, and stood puzzled. 

"I mean," Patrick Mead said into 
the silence, "all these — interesting 
different hair colors and face shapes 
and so forth — " He made a vague 
wave with one hand as if he had 
run out of words or was anxious 
not to insult them. 

"Joke?" Max asked, bewildered. 

June laid a hand on his arm. "No 
harm meant," she said to him over 
the intercom. "We're just as much 
of a shock to him as he is to us." 

She addressed a question to the 
tall colonist on outside sound. 
"What should a person look like, 
Mr. Mead?" 

He indicated her with a smile. 
"Like you." 

June stepped closer and stood 
looking up at him, considering her 
own description. She was tall and 
tanned, like him; had a few freckles, 
like him; and wavy red hair, like 
his. She ignored the brightly humor- 
ous blue eyes. 

"In other words," she said, 
"everyone on the planet looks like 
you and me?" 

Patrick Mead took another look 
at their four faces and began to grin. 
"Like me, I guess. But I hadn't 



CONTAGION 



117 



. . 



• - 



thought of it before. I did not think 
that people could have different 
colored hair or that noses could fit 
so many ways onto faces. I was 
judging by my own appearance, but 
I suppose any fool can walk on his 
hands and say the world is upside 
down!" He laughed and sobered. 
"But then why wear spacesuits? The 
air is breathable." 

"For safety," June told him. "We 
can't take any chances on plague." 

Pat Mead was wearing nothing 
but a loin doth and his weapons, 
and the wind ruffled his hair. He 
looked comfortable, and they longed 
to take off the stuffy spacesuits and 
feel the wind ' against their own 
skins. Minos was like home, like 
Earth. . . . But they were strangers. 

"Plague," Pat Mead said thought- 
fully. "We had one here. It came 
two years after the colony arrived 
and killed everyone except the Mead 
families. They were immune. I guess 
we look alike because we're all re- 
lated, and that's why I grew up 
thinking that it is the only way peo- 
ple can look." 

Plague. "What was the disease?" 
Hal Barton asked. 

''Pretty gruesome, according to my 
father. They called it the melting 
sickness. The doctors died too soon 
to find out what it was or what to 
do about it." 

"You should have trained for 
more doctors, or sent to civilization 
for some." A trace of impatience 
was in George Barton's voice. 

Pat Mead explained patiently, 



-. 



"Our ship, with the power plant and 
all the books we needed, went off 
into the sky to avoid the contagion, 
and never came back. The crew must 
have died." Long years of hardship 
were indicated by that statement, a 
colony with electric power gone and 
machinery stilled, with key techni- 
cians dead and no way 'to replace 
them? June realized then the full 
meaning of the primitive sheath 
knife and bow. 

"Any recurrence of melting sick- 
ness?" asked Hal Barton. 

"No." 

"Any other diseases ?"- 

"Not a one." 

Max was eying the bronze red- 
headed figure with something ap- 
proaching awe. "Do you think all 
the Meads look like that?" he said to 
June on the intercom. "I wouldn't 
mind being a ^lead myself!" 

THEIR job had been made easy 
by the coming of Pat. They 
went back to the ship laughing, ex- 
changing anecdotes with him. There 
was nothing now to keep Minos 
from being the home they wanted, 
except the melting sickness, and, 
forewarned against it, they could 
take precautions. 

The polished silver and black col- 
umn of the Explorer seemed to rise 
higher and higher over the trees as 
they neared it. Then its symmetry 
blurred all sense of specific size as 
they stepped out from among the 
trees and stood on the edge of the 
meadow, looking up. 



• 






118 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 






"Nice!" said Pat. "Beautiful!" 
The admiration in his voice iwas 
warming. 

"It was a yacht," Max said, still 
looking up, "second hand, an old- 
time beauty without a. sign of wear. 
Synthetic diamond-studded control 
board and murals on the walls. It 
doesn't have the new speed drives, 
but it brought us thirty-six light 
years in one and a half subjective 
years. Plenty good enough." 

The tall tanned man looked faint- 
ly wistful, and June realized that he 
had never had access to a full li- 
brary, never seen a movie, never 
experienced luxury. He had been 
born and raised on Minos. 

"TVT AY * g ° aboard? " Pat asked 
IVX hopefully. 

Max unslung the specimen kit 
from his shoulder, laid it on the 
carpet of plants that covered the 
ground and began to open it. 

"Tests first," Hal Barton said. 
"We have to find out if you people 
still carry this so-called melting sick- 
ness. We'll have to de-microbe you 
and take specimens before we let 
you on board. Once on, you'll be no 
good as a check for what the other 
Meads might have." 

Max was. taking out a rack and a 
stand of preservative bottles and 
hypodermics. 

"Are you going to jab me with 
those?" Pat asked with interest. 

"You're just a specimen animal 
to me, bud!" Max grinned at Pat 
Mead, and Pat grinned back. June 



saw that they were friends already, 
the tall pantherish ' colonist, and the 
wry, black-haired doctor. She felt a 
stab of guilt because she loved Max 
and yet could pity him for being 
smaller and frailer than Pat Mead. 

"Lie down," Max told him, "and 
hold still. We need two spinal fluid 
samples from the back, a body cavity 
one in front, and another from the 
arm." ' 

Pat lay down obediently. Max 
knelt, and, as he spoke, expertly 
swabbed and inserted needles with 
the smooth speed that had made him 
a fine nerve- surgeon on Earth. 

High above them the scout helio- 
plane came out of an opening in 
the ship and angled off toward the 
west, its buzz diminishing. Then, 
suddenly, it veered and headed back, 
and Reno Unrich's voice came 
tinnily from their earphones: 

"What's that you've got? Hey, 
' what are you docs doing down 
there?" He banked again and came 
to a stop, hovering fifty feet away. 
June could see his startled face 
looking through the glass at Pat. 

Hal Barton switched to a narrow 
radio beam, explained rapidly and 
pointed in the direction of Alexan- 
dria. Reno's plane lifted and flew 
away over the odd-colored forest. 

"The plane will drop a note on 
your town, telling them you got 
through to us," Hal Barton told 
Pat, who was sitting up watching 
Max dexterously put the blood and 
spinal fluids into the right bottles 
without exposing them to air. 



CONTAGION 



11? 



■ 









"We won't be free to contact your 
people until we know if they still 
carry melting sickness," Max added. 
"You might be immune so it doesn't 
show on "you, but still carry enough 
germs — if that's what caused it- 8 — to 
wipe out a planet." 

"If you do carry melting sick- 
ness," said Hal Barton, "we won't 
be able to mingle with your people 
until we've cleared them of the dis- 
ease." 

"Starting with me?" Pat asked. 

"Starting with you," Max told 
him ruefully, "as soon as you step 
on board." 

"More needles?" 

"Yes, and a few little extras 
thrown in." 

"Rough?" 

• IT, • ». tt 

It isn t easy. 

A few minutes later, standing in 
the stalls for spacesuit decontamina- 
tion, being buffeted by jets of hot 
disinfectant, bathed in glares of 
sterilizing ultraviolet radiation, June 
remembered that and compared Pat 
Mead's treatment to theirs. 

In the Explorer, stored carefully 
in sealed tanks and containers, was 
the ultimate, multi-purpose cureall. 
It was a solution of enzymes so like 
the key catalysts of the human cell 
nucleus that it caused chemical de- 
rangement and disintegration in any 
non-human cell. Nothing could live 
in contact with it but human cells; 
any alien intruder to the body would 
die. Nucleocat Cureall was its trade 
name. 

But the cureall alone was not 



enough for complete safety. Plagues 
had been known to slay too rapidly 
and universally to be checked by 
human treatment. Doctors are not 
reliable; they die. Therefore space- 
ways and interplanetary health law 
demanded that ship equipment for 
guarding against disease be totally 
mechanical in operation, rapid and 
efficient. 

Somewhere near them, in a series 
of stalls which led around and 
around like a rabbit maze, Pat was 
being herded from stall to stall by 
peremptory mechanical voices, di- 
rected to soap and shower, ordered 
to insert his arm into a slot which 
took a sample of his blood, given 
solutions to drink, bathed in germi- 
cidal ultraviolet, shaken by sonic 
blasts, breathing air thick with 
sprays of germicidal mists, being 
directed to put his arms into other 
slots where they were anesthesized 
and injected with various immuniz- 
ing solutions. 

Finally, he would be put in a room 
of high temperature and extreme 
dryness, -and instructed to sit for 
half an hour while more fluids were 
dripped into-4iis veins through long 
thin tubes. 

All legal spaceships were built' for 
safety. No chance was taken of al- 
lowing a suspected carrier to bring 
an infection on board with him. 

JUNE stepped from the last 
shower stall into the locker 
room, zipped off her spacesuit with 
a sigh of relief, and contemplated 



120 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION . 



■ 






herself in a wall mirror. Red hair, 
dark blue eyes, tall. . . . 

"I've got a good figure," she said 
thoughtfully. 

Max turned at the door. "Why 
this sudden interest in your looks?" 
he asked suspiciously. "Do we stand 
here and admire you, or do we finally 
get something to eat?" 

"Wait a minute." She went to a 
wall phone and dialed it carefully, 
using a combination from the ship's 
directory. "How* re you doing, Pat?" 

The phone picked up a hissing of 
water or spray. There was a startled 
chuckle. "Voices, too! Hello, June. 
How do you tell a machine to go 
jump in the lake?" 

"Are you hungry?" 

"No food since yesterday." 
, "We'll have a banquet ready for 
you when you get out," she told 
Pat and hung up, smiling. Pat 
Mead's voice had a vitality and en- 
joyment which made shipboard talk 
sound like sad artificial gaiety in 
contrast. 

They looked into the nearby small 
laboratory where twelve squealing 
hamsters were protestingly submit- 
ting to a small injection each of 
Pat's blood. In most of them the 
injection was followed by one of 
antihistaminics and adaptives. Other- 
wise the hamster defense system 
would treat all non-hamster cells as 
enemies, even the harmless human 
blood cells, and fight back against 
them violently. 

One hamster, the twelfth, was 
given an extra large dose of adap- 



tive, so that if there were a disease, 
he would not fight it or the human 
cells, and thus succumb more rap- 
idly. 

"How ya doing, George?" Max 
asked. 

"Routine," George Barton 
grunted absently. 

On the way up the long spiral 
ramps to the dining hall, they passed 
a viewplate. It showed a long scene 
of mountains in the distance on the 
horizon, and between them, rising 
step by step as they grew farther 
away, the low rolling hills, bronze 
and red with patches of clear green 
where there were fields. 

Someone was looking out, stand- 
ing very still, as if she had been , 
there a long time — Bess St. Clair, a 
Canadian woman. "It looks like 
Winnipeg," she told them as they 
paused. "When are you doctors go- 
ing to let us out of this blithering 
barberpole? took," she pointed. 
"See that patch of field on the south 
hillside, with the brook winding 
through it? I've staked that hillside 
for our house. When do we get 
out?" 



j 



RENO ULRICH'S tiny scout plane 
buzzed slowly in from the dis- 
tance and began circling lazily. 

"Sooner than you think," Max 
told her. "We've discovered a cast- 
away colony on the planet. They've 
done our tests for us by just living 
here. If there's anything here to 
catch, they've caught it." 

"People on Minos?" Bess's hand- 



CONTAGION 



121 












• 



some ruddy face grew alive with ex- 
citement. 

"One of them is down in the 
medical department," June said. 
"He'll be out in twenty minutes." 

"May I go see him?" n 

"Sure," said Max. "Show him the 
way to the dining hall when he gets 
out. Tell him we sent you." 

"Right!" She turned and ran 
down the ramp like a small girl go- 
ing to a fire. Max grinned at June 
and she grinned back. After a year 
and a half of isolation in space, 
everyone was hungry for the sight 
of new faces, the sound of un- 
familiar voices. 

They climbed the last two turns 
to the cafeteria, and entered to a 
rich subdued blend of soft music 
and quiet conversations. The cafe- 
teria was a section of the old dining 
room, left when the rest of the ship 
had been converted to living and 
working quarters, and it still had the 
original finely grained wood of the 
ceiling and walls, the sound absorb- 
ency, the soft music spools a<id the 
intimate small light at each table 
where people leisurely ate and 
talked. 

THEY stood in line at the hot 
foods counter, and behind her 
June could hear a girl's voice talk- 
ing excitedly through the murmur of 
conversation. 

" — new man, honest! I saw him 
through the viewplate when they 
came in. He's down in the medical 
department. A real frontiersman." 



The line drew abreast of the 
counters, and she and Max chose 
three heaping trays, starting with 
hydroponic mushroom steak, raised 
in the growing trays of water and 
chemicals; sharp salad bowl with 
rose tomatoes and aromatic peppers; 
tank-grown fish with special sauce; 
four different desserts, and assorted 
beverages. 

Presently they had three tottering 
trays successfully maneuvered to a 
table. Brant St. Clair came over. "I 
beg your pardon, Max, but they are 
saying something about Reno carry- 
ing messages to a colony of savages, 
for the medical department. Will he 
be back soon, do you know?" 

Max smiled up at him, his square 
face affectionate. Everyone liked the 
shy Canadian. "He's back already. 
We just saw him come in." 

"Oh, fine." St. Clair beamed. "I 
had an appointment with him to go 
out and confirm what looks like a 
nice vein of iron to the. northeast. 
Have you seen Bess? Oh — .there she 
is." He turned swiftly and hurried 
away. 

A very tall man with fiery red 
hair came in surrounded by an eag- 
erly talking crowd of ship people. 
It was Pat Mead. He stood in the 
doorway, alertly scanning the dining 
room. Sheer vitality made him seem 
even larger than he was. Sighting 
June, he smiled and began to thread 
toward their table. 

"Look!" said someone. "There's 
the colonist !*\8ihelia, a pretty, jew- 
eled woman, followed and caught 



122 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 






his arm. "Did you really swim across 
& river to come here?" 

Overflowing with good-will and 
curiosity, people approached from all 
directions. "Did you actually walk 
three hundred miles? Come, eat 
with us. Let me help choose your 
tray." 

Everyone wanted him to eat at 
their table, everyone was a specialist 
and wanted data about Minos. They 
all wanted anecdotes about hunting 
wild animals with a bow and arrow. 

"He needs to be rescued," Max 
said. "He won't have a chance to 
eat." 

June and Max got up firmly, 
edged through the crowd, captured 
Pat and escorted him back to their 
table. June found herself pleased to 
be claiming the hero of the hour. 

PAT sat in the simple, subtly de- 
signed ohair and leaned back 
almost voluptuously, testing the way 
it gave and fitted itself to him. He 
ran his eyes over the bright table- 
ware and heaped plates. He looked 
around at the rich grained walls and 
soft lights at each table. He said 
nothing, just looking and feeling 
and experiencing. 

'When we build our town and 
leave the ship," June explained, "we 
will turn all the staterooms back 
into the lounges and ballrooms and 
cocktail bars that used to be inside." 

"Oh, I'm not complaining," Pat 
said negligently. He cocked his head 
to the music, and tried to locate its 
source. 



"That's big of you," said Max 
with gentle irony. 

They fell to, Pat beginning the 
first meal he had had in more than 
a day. 

Most of the other diners finished 
when they were halfway through, 
and began walking over, diffidently 
at first, then in another wave of 
smiling faces, handshakes, and in- 
troductions. Pat was asked about 
crops, about farming methods, about . 
rainfall and floods, about farm ani- 
mals and -plant breeding, about the 
compatibility of imported Earth 
seeds with local ground, about 
mines and strata. 

There was no need to protect him. 
He leaned back in his chair and 
drawled answers with the lazy ease 
of a panther; where he could think 
of no statistic, he would fill the gap 
with an anecdote. It developed that 
he enjoyed spinning campfire yarns 
and especially being the center of 
interest. 

Between bouts of questions, he 
ate with undiminished and glowing 
relish. 

June noticed that the female spe- 
cialists were prolonging the ques- 
tions more than they needed, 
clustering around the table laughing 
at his jokes, until presently Pat was 
almost surrounded by pretty faces, 
eager questions, and chiming laughs. 
Shelia the beautiful laughed most - 
chimingly of all. 

June nudged Max, and Max 
shrugged indifferently. It wasn't 
anything a man would pay attention 



CONTAGION 



123 



• Jf. 



, --.« 






to, perhaps. But June watched Pat 
for a moment more, then glanced 
uneasily back to Max. He was eating 
and listening to Pat's answers and 
did not feel her gaze. For some, 
reason Max looked almost shrunken 
to her. He was shorter than she had 
realized; she had forgotten that he 
was only the same height as herself. 
She was dimly aware of the clear 
lilting chatter of female voices in- 
creasing at Pat's end of the table. 

"That guy's a menace," Max said, 
and laughed to himself, . cutting an- 
other slice of hydroponic mushroom 
Steak. "What's eating you?" he 
added, glancing aside at her when 
he noticed her sudden stillness. 

"Nothing," she said hastily, but 
she did not turn back to watching 
Pat Mead. She felt disloyal. Pat was 
only a superb animal. Max was the 
man she loved. Or — was he? Of 
course he was, she told herself an- 
grily. They had gone colonizing to- 
gether because they wanted to spend 
their lives together; she had never 
thought of marrying any other man. 
Yet the sense of dissatisfaction per- 
sisted, and along with it a feeling 
of guilt. 

Len Marlow, the protein tank- 
culture technician responsible for 
the mushroom steaks, had wormed 
his way into the group and asked Pat 
a question. Now he was saying, "I 
don't dig you, Pat. It sounds like 
you're putting the people into the 
tanks instead of the vegetables!" He 
glanced at them, looking puzzled. 
"See if you two can make anything 



of this. It sounds medical to me." 
Pat leaned back and smiled, sip- 
ping a glass of, 'hydroponic bur- 
gundy. "Wonderful stuff. You'll 
have to show us how to make it." 

Len turned* back to him. "You 
people live off the country, right? 
You hunt and bring in steaks and 
eat them, right? Well, say I have 
one of those steaks right here and 
I want to eat it, what happens?" 

"f^O AHEAD and eat it. It just 

vJT wouldn't digest. You'd stay 
hungry." 

"Why?" Len was aggrieved. 

"Chemical differences in the basic 
protoplasm of Minos. Different 
amino linkages, left-handed instead 
of righNhanded molecules in the 
carbohydrates, things like that. Noth- 
ing will be digestible here until you 
are adapted chemically by a little 
test-tube evolution. Till then you'd 
starve to death on a full stomach." 

Pat's side of the table had been 
loaded with the dishes from two 
trays, but it was almost clear now 
and the dishes were stacked neatly 
to one side. He started on three 
desserts, thoughtfully tasting each 
in turn. 

"Test-tube evolution?" 'Max re- 
peated. "What's that? I thought you 
people had no doctors." 

"It's a story." Pat leaned back 
again. "Alexander P. Mead, the 
head of the Mead clan, was a plant 
geneticist, a very determined person- 
ality and no man to argue with. He 
didn't want us to. go through the 



124 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 









struggle of killing off all Minos 
plants and putting in our own, spoil- 
ing" the face of the planet and up- 
setting the balance^ of its ecology. 
He decided that he would adapt our 
genes to this planet or kill us trying. 
He did it all right."" 

"Did which?" asked June, sud- 
denly feeling a sourceless prickle of 
fear. 

"Adapted us to Minos. He took 
human cells — " 

SHE listened intently, trying to 
(find a reason for fear in the ex- 
planation. Jt would have taken many 
human generations to adapt to Minos 
by ordinary evolution, and that only 
at a heavy toll of death and hunger 
which evolution exacts. There was 
a shorter way: Human cells have 
the ability to 'return to their prime- 
val Condition of independence, 
hunting, eating and reproducing 
alone. 

• Alexander P. Mead took human 
cells and made them into phago- 
cytes. He put them through the hard 
savage school of evolution — a thou- 
sand generations of multiplication, 
hardship and hunger, with the alien 
indigestible food always present, of- 
fering its reward of plenty to the 
cell that reluctantly learned to absorb 

it. 

"Leucocytes can run through sev- 
eral thousand generations of evolu- 
tion in six months," Pat Mead 
finished. "When they reached to a 
point where they would absorb 
Minos food, he planted them back 



in the people he had taken them 
from." 

"What was supposed to happen 
then?" Max asked, leaning forward. 

"I don't know exactly how it 
worked. He never told anybody 
much about it, and when. I Was a 
little boy he had gone loco and was 
wandering ha-ha-ing around waving 
a test tube. Fell down a ravine and 
broke his neck at the age of eighty." 

"A character," Max said. 

Why was she afraid? "It worked 
then?" 

"Yes. He tried it on all the Meads 
the first year. The other settlers 
didn't want to be experimented on 
until they saw how it worked out. 
It worked. The Meads could hunt, 
and plant while the other settlers 
were still eating out of hydroponics 
tanks." 

"It worked," said Max to Len. 
"You're a plant geneticist and a 
tank culture expert. There's a job for 
you." 

u \]k-uh! sf Len backed away. "It 
sounds like a medical problem to 
me. Human cell control — right up 
your alley." 

"It is a one-way street," Pat 
warned. "Once it is done, you won't 
be able to digest ship food. I'll get 
no good from this protein. I ate it 
just for the taste." 

Hal Barton appeared quietly be- 
side the table. "Three of the twelve 
test hamsters have died," he re- 
ported, and turned to Pat. "Your 
people carry the germs of melting 
sickness, as you call it. Hie dead 



CONTAGION 



12S 



hamsters were injected with blood 
taken from you before you were Re- 
infected. We can't settle here unless 
we de-infect everybody on Minos. 
Would they object?" 

"We wouldn't want to give you 
folks germs," Pat smiled. "Anything 
for safety. But there'll have to be a 
vote on it first." 

The doctors went to Reno Ulrich's 
table and walked with him to the 
hangar, explaining. He was to carry 
the proposal to Alexandria, mingle 
with the people, be persuasive and 
wait for them to vote before return- 
ing. He was to give himself shots 
of cureall every two hours on the 
hour or run the risk of disease. 

RENO was pleased. He had dab- 
bled in sociology before retrain- 
ing as a mechanic for the expedition. 
"This gives me a chance to study 
their mores." He winked wickedly. 
"I may not be back for several 
nights." They watched through the 
viewplate as he took off, and then 
went over to the laboratory for a 
look at the hamsters. 

Three were alive and . healthy, 
munching lettuce. One was the con- 
trol; the other two had been given 
shots of Pat*s blood from before he 
entered the ship, but with no adcji- 
tional treatment. Apparently a ham- 
ster could fight off melting sickness 
easily if left alone. Three were still* 
feverish and ruffled, with a low red 
blood count, but recovering. The 
three dead ones had been given 
strong shots of adaptive and counter 



histamine, so their bodies had not 
fought back against the attack. ' 

June glanced at the dead animals 
hastily and looked away again. They 
lay twisted with a strange semi-fluid 
limpness, as if ready to dissolve. 
The last hamster, which had been 
given the heaviest dose of adaptive, 
had apparently lost all its hair be- 
fore death. It was hairless and pink, 
like a still-born baby. 

"We can find no micro-organ- 
isms," George Barton said. "None 
at all. Nothing in the body that 
should not be there. Leucosis and 
anemia. Fever only for the ones that 
fought it off." He handed Max ;jome 
temperature charts and graphs of 
blood counts. 

June wandered out into the hall. 
Pediatrics and obstetrics were her. 
field; she left the cellular research 
to Max, and just helped him with 
laboratory routine. The strange mood 
followed her out into the hall, then 
abruptly lightened. 

Coming toward her, busily telling 
a tale of adventure to the gorgeous 
Shelia Davenport, was a tailored- 
headed, magnificently handsome 
man. It was his handsomeness which 
made Pat such a pleasure to look 
upon and talk with, she guiltily 
.told herself, and it was his tremend- 
ous vitality. . \ . It was like meeting 
a movie hero in the flesh, or a hero 
out of the pages of a book — Deer- 
slayer, John Clayton, Lord Grey- 
stoke. 

She waited in the doorway to the 
laboratory and made no move to 



126 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



■ 



join them, merely acknowledged the 
two with a nod and a smile and a 
casual lift of the hand. They nodded 
and smiled back. 

"Hello, June," said Pat and con- 
tinued telling his tale, but as they 
passed he lightly touched her arm. 

"Oh, pioneer!" she said mock- 
ingly and softly to his passing pro- 
file, and knew that he had heard. 

THAT night she had a nightmare. 
She was running down a long 
corridor looking for Max, but every 
man she came to was a big bronze 
man with red hair and bright blue 
eyes who grinned at her. 

The pink hamster! She woke sud- 
denly, feeling as if alarm bells had 
been ringing, and listened carefully, 
but there was no sound. She had had 
a nightmare, she told herself, but 
alarm bells were still ringing in her 
unconscious. Something was wrong. 

Lying still and trying to preserve 
the images, she groped for a mean- 
ing, but the mood faded under the 
cold touch of reason. Damn intuitive 
thinking! A pink hamster! Why did 
the unconscious have to be so vague ? 
She fell asleep again and forgot. 

They • had lunch with Pat Mead 
that day, and after it was over Pat 
delayed June with a hand on her 
shoulder and looked down at her 
for a moment. "I want you, June," 
he said and then turned away, an- 
swering the hails of a party at an- 
other table as if he had not spoken. 
She stood shaken, and then walked 
to the door where Max waited. 



She was particularly affectionate 
with Max the rest of the day, and it 
pleased him. He would not have 
been if he had^ known why. She 
tried to forget Pat's blunt. statement. 

June was in the laboratory with 
Max, watching the growth of a small 
tank culture of the alien protoplasm 
from a Minos weed, and listening to 
Len Marlow pour out his troubles. 

"And Elsie tags around after that 
big goof all day, listening to his 
stories. And then she tells me I'm 
just jealous, I'm imagining things!" 
He passed his hand across his eyes. 
"I came away from Earth to be with 
Elsie. . . . I'm getting a headache. 
Look, can't. you persuade Pat to cut 
it out, June? You and Max are his 
friends." 

"Here, have an aspirin," June said. 
"We'll see what we can do." 

'Thanks." Len picked up his tank 
culture and went out, not at all 
cheered. 

MAX sat brooding over the dials 
and meters at his end of the 
laboratory, apparently sunk in 
thought. When Len had gone, he 
spoke almost harshly. 

"Why encourage the guy? Why 
let him hope?" 

"Found out anything about the 
differences in protoplasm?" she 
evaded. 

"Why let him kid himself? What 
chance has he got against that hunk 
of muscle and smooth talk?" 

"But Pat isn't after Elsie," she 
protested. 



CONTAGION 



127 



■ N 






"Every scatter-brained woman on 
this ship is trailing after Pat witih 
her tongue hanging out. Brant St. 
Clair is in the bar right now. He 
doesn't say what he is drinking 
about, but do ,you think Pat is re- 
sisting all these women crowding 
down on him?" 

"There are other" things besides 
looks and charm," she said, grimly 
trying to concentrate on a slide un- 
der her binocular microscope. 

"ifeah, and • whatever they are, 
Pat has them, too. Who's more com- 
petent to support a woman and a 
family on a frontier planet than a 
handsome bruiser who was born 
here?" 

"I meant," June spun around on 
her stool with unexpected passion, 
"there is old friendship, and there's 
fondness, and memories, and loy- 
alty!" She was half shouting. 

"They're not worth much on the 
second-hand market," Max said. He 
w^as sitting slumped on his lab stool, 
looking dully at his dials. "Now I'm 
getting a headache!" He smiled rue- 
fully. "No kidding, a teal headache. 
And over other people's troubles 
yet!" 

Other people's troubles. .. . . She 
got up and wandered out into the 
long curving halls. "I want you 
June," Pat's voice repeated in her 
mind. Why did the man have to be 
so overpoweringly attractive, so 
glaring a contrast to Max? Why 
couldn't the universe manage to run 
on without generating troublesome 
love triangles? • 



SHE walked up the carving ramps 
to the dining hall where they 
had eaten and drunk and talked 
yesterday. It was empty except for 
one couple talking forehead to fore- 
head over cold coffee. 

She turned and wandered down 
the long easy spiral of corridor to 
the pharmacy and dispensary. It was 
empty. George was probably in the 
test lab next door, where he could 
hear if he was wanted. The auto- 
matic vendor of harmless euphorics, 
stimulants and opiates stood in the 
corner, brightly decorated in pastel 
abstract designs, with its automatic 
tabulator graph glowing above it. 

Max had a headache, she remem- 
bered. She recorded her thumbprint 
in the machine and pushed the 
plunger for a box of aspirins, trying 
to focus her attention on the prob- 
lem of adapting the people of the 
ship to the planet Minos. An aquar- 
ium tank with a faint solution of 
histamine would be enough to con- 
vert a piece of human skin into a 
community of voracious active pha- 
gocytes individually seeking some- 
thing to devour, but could they eat 
enough to live away from the rich 
sustaining plasma of human blood ? , 

After the aspirins, she pushed an- 
other plunger for something for 
herself. Then she stood looking at 
it, a small box with three pills in 
her hand — Theobromine, a heart 
strengthener and a confidence-giving 
euphoric all in one, something to 
steady shaky nerves. She had used 
it before only in emergency. She 



128 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



- 



' ..' 



< 



\> 



- 



■ 



' • 



extended a hand and looked at it. 
It was trembling. Damn triangles! 

While she was looking at her 
hand there was a click from the au- 
tomatic drug vendor. It summed the 
morning use of each drug in the 
vendors throughout the ship, and 
recorded i( in a neat addition to the 
end of each graph line. For a mo- 
ment she could not (find the green 
line for anodynes and the red line 
for stimulants, and then she saw that 
they went almost straight up. 

There were too many being used 
— far too many to be explained by 
jealousy or psychosomatic peevish- 
ness. This was an epidemic, and only 
one disease was possible! 

The disinfecting of Pat had not 
succeeded. Nucleocat Cureall, killer 
of all infections, had not cured! Pat 
had brought melting sickness into 
the ship with him! 

Who had it? 

The drugs vendor glowed cheer- 
fully, uncommunicative. She opened 
a panel in its side and looked in on 
restless interlacing cogs, and on the 
inside of the door saw printed some 
directions. . . . "To remove or ex- 
amine records before reaching end 
of the reel— " 

After a few fumbling minutes she 
had the answer. In the cafeteria at 
breakfast and lunch, thirty-eighfmen 
out of the forty-eight aboard ship 
had taken more than his norm of 
stimulant. Twenty-one had taken as- 
pirin as well. The only woman who 
had made an unusual purchase was 
herself ! 



She remembered the hamsters that 
had thrown off the infection with a 
short sharp fever, and checked back 
in the records to the day before. 
There was a short rise in aspirin 
sales to women at late afternoon. 
The women were safe. 

It was the men who had melting 
sickness ! 

Melting sickness killed in hours, 
according to Pat Mead. How long 
had the men been sick? 

AS SHE was leaving, Jerry came 
into the pharmacy, recorded his 
thumbprint and took a box of aspirin 
from the machine. 

She felt all right. Self-control was 
working well and it was pleasant 
still to walk down the corridor smil- 
ing at the people who passed. She 
took the emergency elevator to the 
control room and showed her cre- 
dentials to the technician on watch. 

"Medical Emergency." At a small 
control panel in the corner was a 
large red button, precisely labeled. 
She considered it and picked up the 
control room phone. This was the 
hard part, telling someone, especially 
someone who had it — Max. 

She dialed, and when the click 
on the end of the line showed he 
had picked the phone up, she told 
Max what she had seen. 

"No women, just the men," he 
repeated. "That right?" 

"Yes." 

"Probably it's chemically alien, in- 
hibited by one of the female sex 
hormones. We'll try sex hormone 



CONTAGION 



129 






• • 



.' 



• - 



-• . 






shots, if we have to. Where are you 
calling from?"- 

She told him. 

"That's right. Give Nucleocat 
Cureall another chance. It might 
work this time. Push that button." 

She went to the panel and pushed 
the large red button. Through the 
long height of the Explorer, bells 
woke to life and began to ring in 
frightened clangor, emergency doors 
thumped shut, mechanical apparatus 
hummed into life and canned voices 
began to give rapid urgent direc- 
tions. 

A plague had come. 

SHE obeyed the mechanical orders, 
went out into the hall and 
walked in line with the others. The 
captain walked ahead of her and 
the gorgeous Shelia Davenport fell 
into step beside her. "I look like a 
positive hag this morning. Does that 
mean I'm sick? Are we all sick?" 

June shrugged, unwilling to say 
what she knew. 

Others came out of all rooms into 
the corridor, thickening the line. 
They could hear each room lock as 
the last person left it, and then, 
faintly, the hiss of disinfectant 
spray. Behind them, on the heels 
of the last person in line, segments 
of the ship slammed off and began 
to hiss. 

They wound down the spiral cor- 
ridor until they reached the medical 
treatment section again, and there 
they waited in line. 

"It won't scar my arms, will it?" 



asked Shelia apprehensively, glanc- 
ing at her smooth, lovely arms. 

The mechanical voice said, 
"Next. Step inside, pjease, and stand 
clear of the door." , 

"Not a bit," June reassured Shelia, 
and stepped into the cubicle. 

Inside, she was directed from cub- 
icle to cubicle and given the usual 
buffeting by sprays and radiation, 
had blood samples taken and was 
injected with Nucleocat and a series 
of other protectives. At last she was 
directed through another door into 
a tiny cubicle with a chair. 

"You are to wait here," com- 
manded the recorded voice metallic- 
ally. "In twenty minutes the door 
will unlock and you may then leave. 
All people now treated may visit all 
parts of the ship which have been 
protected. It is forbidden to visit 
any quarantined or unsterile part of 
the ship without permission from 
the medical officers." 

Presently the door unlocked and 
she emerged into bright lights again, 
feeling slightly battered. 

She was in the clinic. A few men 
sat on the edge of beds and looked 
sick. One was lying down. Brant and 
Bess St. Clair sat near each other, 
not speaking. 

Approaching her was George Bar- 
ton; reading a thermometer with a 
puzzled expression. 

"What is it, George?" she asked 
anxiously. 

"Some of the women have slight 
fever, but it's going down. None of. 
the fellows have any — but their 



130 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



1 



• 

white count is way .up, their red 
count is way down, and they look 
sick to me/' 

She approached St. Clair. His usu- 
ally ruddy cheeks were pale, his 
pulse was light and too fast, and 
his skin felt clammy. "How's the 
. headache ?* Did the Nucleocat treat- 
ment help?" 

"I feel worse, if anything." 

"Better set up beds," she told 
George. "Get everyone back into the 
clinic." 

"We're doing that," George as- 
sured her. "That's what Hal is do- 

tag? 

She went back to the laboratory. 

Max was pacing up and down, ab- 
sently running his hands through his 
black hair until it stood straight up. 
He stopped when he saw her face, 
and scowled thoughtfully. "They are 
; still sick?" It was more a statement 
than a question. 

She nodded. 

"The Cureall didn't cure this 
time," he muttered. "That leaves it 
up to us. We have melting sickness 
• and according to Pat and the ham- 
sters, that leaves us less than a day 
to ■find out what it is and learn how 
to stop it." 

Suddenly an idea for another test 
struck him and he moved to the 
work table to set it up. He worked 
rapidly, with an occasional uncoor- 
dinated movement betraying his 
usual: efficiency. 

It was strange to see Max troubled 
and afraid. ' 

She put on a laboratory smock 



. 



and began to work. She worked 
in silence. The mechanicals had 
failed. Hal and George Barton were 
busy staving off death from the 
weaker cases and trying to gain time 
for Max and her to work. The prob- 
lem of the plague had to be solved 
by the two of them v alone. It was in 
their hands. 

Another test, no results. Another 
test, -no results. Max's hands were 
shaking and he stopped a moment 
to take stimulants. 

She went into the ward for a mo- 
ment, found Bess and warned her 
quietly to tell the other women to 
be ready to take over if the men 
became too sick to go on. "But tell 
them calmly. We don't want to 
frighten the men." She lingered in 
the ward long enough to see the 
word spread among the women in a 
widening wave of paler faces and 
compressed lips; then she went back 
to the laboratory. 

Another test. There was no sign 
of a micro-organism in anyone's 
blood, merely a growing horde of 
leucocytes and phagocytes, prowling 
as if mobilized to repel invasion. 

LEN MARLOW was wheeled in 
unconscious, with Hal Barton's 
written comments and conclusions 
pinned to the blanket. 

"I don't feel so well myself," the 
assistant complained. "The air feels 
thick. I can't breathe." 

June saw that his lips were blue. 
"Oxygen short," she told Max. 

"Low red corpuscle count," Max 



CONTAGION 



131 



-•••-. 






answered. "Look into a drop and 
see what's going on. Use mine; I 
feel the same way he does." She 
took two drops of Max's blood. The 
count was low, falling too fast. 

Breathing is useless without the 
proper minimum^ of " red corpuscles 
in the blood. People below that 
minimum die of asphyxiation al- 
though their lungs are full of .pure 
air. The red corpuscle count w&s 
falling too fast. The time she and 
Max had to work in was too short. 

**T)UMP some more G0 2 into the 
XT air system," Max said urgently 
over the phone. "Get some into the 
men's end of the ward." 

She looked through the micro- 
scope at the live sample of blood. It 
was a dark clear field and bright 
moving things spun and swirled 
through it, but she could see noth- 
ing that did not belong there. 

"Hal," Max called over the gen- 
eral speaker system, "cut the other 
treatments, check for accelerating 
anemia. Treat it like monoxide 
poisoning — C0 2 and oxygen." 

She reached into a cupboard under 
the work table, located two cylin- 
ders of oxygen, cracked the valves 
and handed one to Max and one to 
the assistant. Some of the bluish tint 
' left the assistant's face as he breathed 
and he went over to the patient with 
reawakened concern. 

"Not breathing, Doc!" 

Max was working at the desk, 
muttering equations of hemoglobin 
catalysis*. 



"Len's gone, Doc," die assistant 
said more loudly. 

"Artificial respiration and get him 
into a regeneration tank," said June, 
not moving from the microscope. 
"Hurry-! Hal will show you how. 
The oxidation and mechanical heart 
action in the tank will keep him go- 
ing. Put anyone in a tank who seems 
to be dying. Get some women to 
help you. Give them Hal's instruc- 
tions." 

The tanks were ordinarily used to 
suspend animation in a nutrient bath 
during the regrowth of any dis- 
eased organ. It could preserve life 
in an almost totally destroyed body 
during the usual disintegration and 
regrowth treatments for cancer and 
old age, and it could encourage heal- 
ing as destruction continued . . . 
but they could not prevent ultimate 
death as long as the disease was not 
conquered. 

The drop of blood in June's 
microscope was a great, dark field, 
and in the foreground, brought to 
gargantuan solidity by the stereo 
effect, drifted neat saucer shapes of 
red blood cells. They turned end 
for end, floating by the humped 
misty mass of a leucocyte which was 
crawling on the cover glass. There 
were not enough red corpuscles, and 
she felt that they grew fewer as she 
watched. 

She fixed her eye on one, not 
blinking in fear that she would miss 
what might happen. It was a tidy 
red button, and it spun as it drifted, 
the current moving it aside in a 



132 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



' .x. ■ 



■ 






curve as it passed by the leucocyte. 
*. Then, abruptly, the cell vanished. 

June stared numbly at the place 
where it had been. 

•Behind her, Max was calling over 
the speaker system again: "Dr. Stark 
speaking. Any technician who knows 
anything about the life tanks, start 
bringing more out of storage and 
set them up. Emergency." 

"We may need forty-seven," June 
said quietly. 

"We may. need forty- seven," Max 
repeated to the ship in general. His 
voice did not falter. "Set them up 
along the corridor. Hook them in 
on extension lines." 

His voice filtered back from the 
empty floors above in a series of dim 
echoes. What he had said meant that 
every man on board might be on the 
pomt of heart stoppage. 

JUNE looked blindly through the 
binocular microscope, trying to 
think. Out of the corner of her eyes 
she could see that Max was waver- 
ing and breathing more and more 
frequently of the pure, cold, burn- 
ing oxygen of the cylinders. In the 
microscope she could see that there 
were fewer red cells left, alive in 
the drop of his blood. The rate of 
fall was accelerating. 

She didn't have to glance at Max 
to know how he would look — skin 
pale, black eyebrows and keen brown 
eyes slightly squinted in thought, a 
faint ironical grin twisting the blu- 
ing lips. Intelligent, thin, sensitive, 
his face was part of her mnd. It was 



inconceivable that Max could die. 
He couldn't die. He couldn't leave 
her alone. 

She forced her mind back to the 
problem. All the men of the Ex- 
plorer were at the same point, where- 
ever they were. 

Moving to Max's desk, she spoke 
into the intercom system: "Bess, 
send a couple of women to look 
through the ship, room by room, 
with a stretcher. Make sure all the 
men are down here." She remem- 
bered Reno. "Sparks, heard anything 
from Reno? Is he back?" 

Sparks replied weakly after a lag. 
"The last I heard from Reno was a 
call this morning. JHe was raving 
about mirrors, and Pat Mead's folks 
not being real people, just carbon 
copies, and claiming he was crazy; 
and I should send him the psychia- 
trist. I thought he was kidding. He 
didn't call back." 

"Thanks, Sparks." Reno was lost. 

Max dialed and spoke to the 
bridge over the phone. "Are you 
okay up there? Forget about en- 
gineering controls. Drop everything 
and head for the tanks while you can 
still walk." 

June went back to the work table 
and whispered into her own phone. 
"Bess, send up a stretcher for Max. 
He looks pretty bad." 

There had to be a solution. The 
life tanks could 1 sustain life in a 
damaged body, encouraging it to 
regrow more rapidly, but they mere- 
ly slowed death as long as the dis- 
ease was not checked. The postpone- 



*\ 



CONTAGION 



133 



ment could not last Jong, for 
destruction could go on steadily in 
the tanks until the nutritive solution 
would hold no life except the tri- 
umphant microscopic killers that 
caused melting sickness. 

There were very few red blood 
corpuscles in the microscope field 
now, incredibly few. She tipped the 
microscope and they began to drift, 
spinning slowly. A lone corpuscle 
floated through the center. She 
watched it as the current swept it in 
an arc past the dim off-focus bulk 
of the leucocyte. There was a sweep 
of motion and it vanished. 

For a moment it meant nothing 
to her; then she lifted her head 
from the microscope and looked 
around, tyax sat at his desk, head 
in hand, his rumpled short black hair 
sticking out between his fingers at 
odd angles. A pencil and a pad 
scrawled with formulas lay on the 
desk before him. She could see his 
concentration in the rigid set of his 
shoulders. He was still thinking; he 
had not given up. 

«"|V TAX, - just saw a leucocyte 
iV-Lgrab a red blood corpuscle. 
It was unbelievably fast." 

"Leukemia," muttered Max with- 
out moving. . "Galloping leukemia 
yet! That comes under the heading 
of cancer. Well, that's part of the 
answer. It might be all we need." 
He grinned feebly and reached for 
the speaker set. "Anybody still on 
his feet in there?" he muttered into 
it, and the question was amplified 



to a booming voice throughout the 
ship. "Hal, are you still going? 
Look, Hal, change all the dials, 
change the dials, set them to deep 
melt and regeneration. One week. 
This is like leukemia. Got it? This 
is like leukemia." 

June rose. It was time for her to 
take over the job. She leaned across 
his desk, and spoke into the speaker 
system. "Doctor Walton talking," 
she said. "This is to the women. * 
Don't let any of the men work any 
more; they'll kill themselves. See 
that they all go into the tanks right 
away. Set the tank dials for deep 
regeneration. You can see how from 
the ones that are set." 

Two exhausted and frightened 
women clattered in the doorway 
with a stretcher. Their hands were 
scratched and oily from helping to 
set up tanks. 

"That order includes you," she 
told Max sternly and caught him as 
he swayed. 

Max saw the stretcher bearers and 
struggled upright, "Ten more min- 
utes," he said clearly. "Might think 
of an idea. Something not right in 
this setup. I have to figure how to 
prevent a relapse, how the thing 
started." 

He knew more bacteriology than 
she did; she had to help him think. 
She motioned the bearers to wait, 
fixed a breathing mask for Max from 
a cylinder of C0 2 and the opened 
one of oxygen. Max went back to 
his desk. 

She walked up and down, trying 



134 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



to think, remembering the hamsters. 
The melting sickness, it was called. 
Melting. She struggled with an im- 
pulse to open a tank which held one 
of the men. She wanted to look in, 
see if that would explain the name. 

Melting Sickness. . . . 

Footsteps came and Pat Mead 
stood uncertainly in the doorway. 
Tall, handsome, rugged, a pioneer. 
"Anything I can do?" he asked. 

She barely looked at him. "You 
can stay out of our way. We're 
busy." 

"I'd like to help," he said. 
• "Very funny." She was vicious, 
enjoying the whip of her words. 
"Every man is dying because you're 
a carrier, and you want to help." 



H 



E STOOD nervously clenching 
and unclenching his hands. "A 
guinea pig, maybe. I'm immune. All 
the Meads are." 

"Go away." God, why couldn't 
she think? What makes a Mead 
immune ? 

"Aw, let 'im alone," Max mut- 
tered. "Pat hasn't done anything." 
He went waveringly to the micro- 
scope, took a tiny sliver from his 
finger, suspended it in a slide and 
slipped it under the lens with de- 
tached habitual dexterity. "Some- 
thing funny going on," he said to 
June. "Symptoms don't feel right." 

After a moment he straightened 
and motioned for her to look. "Leu- 
cocytes, phagocytes — " He was be- 
wildered. "My own — " . 

She looked in, and then looked 



back at Pat in a growing wave of 
horror. "They're not your own, 
Max!" she whispered. 

Max rested a hand on the table to 
brace himself, put his eye to the 
microscope, and looked again. June 
knew what he saw. Phagocytes, leu- 
cocytes, attacking and devouring his 
tissues in a growing incredible 
horde, multiplying insanely. 

Not his phagocytes! Pat Mead's! 
The Meads' evolved cells had 
learned too much. They were con- 
tagious. And not Pat Mead's. . . . 
How much alike were the Meads? 
. . . Mead cells contagious from one 
to another, not a disease attacking 
or being fought, but acting as nor- 
mal leucocytes in whatever body they 
were in! The leucocytes of tall, red- 
headed people, finding no strange- 
ness in the bloodstream of any of 
the tall, red-headed people. No 
strangeness. ... A toti-potent leu- 
cocyte finding its way into cellular 
wombs.. 

The womblike life tanks. For the 
men of the Explorer, a week's cure 
with deep melting to de-differen- 
tiate the leucocytes and turn them 
back to normal tissue, then regrowth 
and reforming from the cells that 
were there. From the cells that were 
ther^e. From the cells that were 
there. . . . 

"Pat—" 

"I know." Pat began to laugh, his 
face twisted with sudden under- 
standing. "I understand. I get it. 
I'm a contagious personality. That's 
funny, isn't it?" 



CONTAGION 



135 









* 



Max rose suddenly from the mi- 
croscope and lurched toward him, 
fists clenched. Pat caught him as he 
fell, and the bewildered stretcher 
bearers carried him out to the tanks. 

F)R a week June tended the 
„ tanks. The other women volun- 
teered to help, but she refused. She 
said nothing, hoping her guess 
would not be true. 

"Is everything all right?'' Elsie 
asked her anxiously. "How is Jerry 
coming along?" Elsie looked hag- 
gard and worn, like all the women, 
from doing the work that the men 
had always done. 

"He's fine," June said tonelessly, 
shutting tight the door of the tank 
room. "They're 'all fine." 

"That's good," Elsie said, but she 
looked more frightened than before. 

June firmly locked the tank room 
door and the girl went away. 

The other women had been listen- 
ing, and now they wandered back 
to their jobs, unsatisfied by June's 
answer, but not daring to ask for 
the actual truth. They were there 
whenever June went into the tank 
room, and they were still there — or 
relieved by others; June was not 
sure — when she came out. And al- 
ways some one of them asked ^the 
unvarying question for all the 
others, and June gave the unvarying 
answer. But she kept the key. No 
woman but herself knew what was 
going on in the. life tanks. 

Then the day of completion came. 
June told no one of the hour. She 



went into the room as on the other 
days, locked the door behind her, 
and there was the nightmare again. 
This time it was reality and she 
wandered down a path between long 
rows of coffinlike tanks, calling, * 
"Max! Max!" silently and looking 
into each one as it opened. 

But each face she looked at was 
the same. Watching them dissolve 
and regrow in the nutrient solution, 
she had only been able to guess at 
the horror of what was happening. 
Now she khew. 

They were all the same lean- 
boned, blond-skinned face, with a 
pin-feather growth of reddish down 
on cheeks and scalp. AH horribly — 
and handsomely — the same. 

A medical kit lay carelessly on 
the floor beside Max's tank. She 
stood near the bag. "Max," she said; 
and found her throat closing. The 
canned voice of the mechanical 
mocked her, speaking glibly about 
waking and sitting up. "I'm sorry, 
Max. . . ." 

The tall man with rugged features 
and bright blue eyes sat up sleepily 
and lifted an eyebrow at her, and 
ran his hand over his red-fuzzed 
head in a gesture of bewilderment. 

"What's the matter, June?" he 
asked drowsily. 

She gripped his arm. "Max — " 

He compared the relative size of 
his arm with her hand and said 
wonderingly, "You shrank." 

"I know, Max. I know." 

He turned his head and looked 
at his arms and legs, pale blond arms 



136 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



i 



and legs with a down of red hair. 
He touched the thick left arm, 
squeezed a pinch of hard flesh. "It 
isn't mine," he said, surprised. "But 
I can feel it." 

Watching his face was like watch- 
ing a stranger mimicking and dis- 
torting Max's expressions. Max in 
fear. Max trying to understand what 
had happened to him, looking 
around at the other men sitting up 
in their tanks. Max feeling the terror 
that was in herself and all the men 
as they stared at themselves and 
their friends and sa\v what they had 
become. 

"We're all Pat. Mead," he said 
harshly. "All the Meads are Pat 
Mead. That's why he was surprised 
to see people who didn't look like 
himself." 

"Yes, Max." 

"Max," he repeated. "It's me, all 
right. The nervous system didn't 
change." His new blue eyes held 
hers. "My love didn't, either. Did 
yours? Did it, June?" 

"No, Max." But she couldn't 
know yet*. She had loved Max with 
the thin, ironic face, the rumpled 
black hair and the twisted smile 
that never really hid his quick sym- 
pathy. Now he was Pat Mead. Could 
he also be Max? "Of course I still 
lov? you, darling." 

He grinned. It was still the wry 
smile of Max, though fitting strange- 
ly on the handsome new blond face. 
"Then it isn't so bad. It might even 
be pretty good. I envied him this 
big, muscular body. If Pat or any 



of these Meads so much as looks at 
you, I'm going to knock his block 
off. Understand?" 

SHE laughed and couldn't stop. 
It wasn't that funny. But it was 
still Max, trying to be unafraid, 
drawing on humor. Maybe the rest 
of the, men would also be their old 
selves, enough so the women would 
not feel that their .men were stran- 
gers. 

Behind her, male voices spoke 
characteristically. She did not have 
to turn to know which was which: 
"This is one way to keep a guy 
from stealing your girl," that was 
Len Marlow; "I've got to write down 
all my reactions," Hal Barton; "Now 
I can really work that hillside vein 
of metal," St. Clair. Then others 
complaining, swearing, laughing bit- 
terly at the trick that had been 
played on them and their flirting, 
tempted women. She knew who they 
were. Their women would know 
them apart, too. 

"We'll go outside," Max said. 
"You and I. Maybe the shock won't 
he so bad to the women after they 
see me." He paused. "You didn't 
tell them, did you?" 

"I couldn't. I wasn't sure. I — was 
hoping I was wrong." 

She opened the door and closed 
it quickly. There was a small crowd 
on the other side. 

"Hello, Pat," Elsie said uncertain- 
ly, trying to look past them into the 
tank room before the door shut. 

"I'm not Pat, I'm Max," said the 



CONTAGION 



137 















tall man with the blue eyes and the 
fuzz-reddened skull. "Listen — " 

"Good heavens, Pat, what hap- 
pened to your hair?" Shelia asked. 

"I'm Max," insisted the man with 
the handsome face and the sharp 
blue eyes. "Don't you get it? I'm 
Max Stark. The melting sickness is 
Mead cells. We caught them from 
Pat. They adapted us to Minos. They 
also changed us all into Pat Mead." 

The women stared at him, at each 
other. They shook their heads. 

"They don't understand," June 
said. "I couldn't have if I hadn't 
seen it happening, Max." 

"It's Pat," said Shelia, dazedly 
stubborn. "He shaved off his hair. 
It's some kind of joke." 

Max shook her shoulders, glaring 
down at her face. "I'm Max. Max 
Stark. Hiey all look like me. Do 
you hear? It's funny, but it's not a 
joke. Laugh for us, for God's 
sake!" 

"It's too much," said June. 
"They'll have to see." 

She opened the door and let them 
in. They hurried past her to the 
tanks, looking at forty-six identical 
blond faces, beginning to call in 
frightened voices: 

"Jerry!" 

"Harry!" 

"Lee, where are you, sweet- 
heart—" 

June shut the door on the voices 
that were growing hysterical, the 
women terrified and helpless, the 
men shouting to let the women know 
who they were. 



"It isn't easy," said Max, looking 
down at his own thick muscles. "But 
you aren't changed and the other 
girls aren't. That helps." 

Through the muffled noise and 
hysteria, a bell was ringing. 

"It's the airlock," June said. 

Peering in the viewplate were 
nine Meads from Alexandria. To all 
appearances, eight of them were Pat 
Mead at various ages, from fifteen 
to fifty, and the other was a hand- 
some, leggy, red-headed girl who 
could have been his sister. a 

Regretfully, they explained 
through the voice tube that they had 
walked over from Alexandria to 
bring news that the plane pilot had 
contracted melting sickness there and 
had died. 

They wanted to come in. 



■ 



JUNE and Max told them to wait 
and returned to the tank room. - 
The men were enjoying their new 
height and strength, and the women 
were beWilderedly learning that they 
could tell one Pat Mead from an- 
other, by voice, by gesture of face 
or hand.sThe panic was gone. In its 
place was a dull acceptance of the 
fantastic situation. 

Max called for attention. "There 
are nine Meads outside who want 
to come in. They have different 
names, but they're all Pat Mead." 

They frowned or looked blank, 
and George Barton asked, "Why 
didn't you let them in? I don't see 
any problem." 

"One of them," said Max soberly, 



138 



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GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



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"is a girl. Patricia Mead. The girl 
wants to come in." 

There was a long silence while 
the implication settled to the fear 
center of the women's minds. Shelia 
• the" beautiful felt it first. She cried, 
"No! Please don't let her in!" There 
was real fright in her tone and the 
women caught it quickly. 

Elsie clung to Jerry, begging, 
"You don't want me to change, do 
you, Jerry? You like me the way I 
am! Tell me you do!" 

fTIHE other girls backed away. It 
JL was illogical, but it was human. 
June felt terror rising in herself. She 
held up her hand for quiet, and pre- 
sented the necessity to the group. 

"Only half of us can leave 
Minos," she said. "The men cannot 
eat ship food; they've^ been condi- 
tioned to this planet. We women can 
go, but we would have to go with- 
out our men. We can't go outside 
without contagion, and we can't 
spend the rest of our lives in quar- 
antine inside the ship. George Bar- 
ton is right — there is no problem." 

"But we'd be changed!" Shelia 
shrilled. "I don't want to become a 
Mead! I don't want to be somebody 






else!" 

She ran to the inner wall of the 
corridor. There was a brief hesita- 
tion, and then, one by one, the 
women fled to that side, until there 
were only Bess, June and four 
others left. 

"See!" cried Shelia. "A vote! We 
can't let the girl in!"' 



»*->» 



No one spoke. To change, to be 
someone else— the idea was strange 
and horrifying. The men stood un- 
easily glancing at each other, as if 
looking into mirrors, and against the 
wall of the corridor the women 
watched in fear and huddled to- 
gether, staring at the men. One man 
in forty-seven poses. One of them . 
made a beseeching move toward 
Elsie and she shrank away. 

"No, Jerry! I won't let you change 
me!" 

Max stirred restlessly, the ironic 
smile that made his new face his 
own unconsciously twisting into a 
grimace of- pity. "We men can't 
leave, and you women can't stay," 
he said bluntly. "Why not let Pa- 
tricia Mead in. Get it over with!" 

June took a small mirror from her 
belt pouch and studied her own face, 
aware of Max talking forcefully, the 
men standing silent, the women 
pleading. Her face . . . her own face 
with its dark blue eyes, small nose, 
long mobile lips . . . the mind and 
the body are inseparable; the shape 
of a face is part of the mind. She put 
the mirror back. 

"I'd kill myself!" Shelia was sob- 
bing. "I'd rather die!" 

"You won't die," Max was say- 
ing. M Can't you see there's only one 
solution — " 

They were looking at Max. June 
stepped silently out of the tank 
room, and then turned and went to 
the airlock. She opened the valves 
that would let in Pat Mead's sister. 

— KATHERINE MacLEAN 



140 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



GALAXY'S 



FIVE STAR SHELF 



SHADOW ON THE HEARTH, by 
]udith Merril. Doubled ay, Inc., 
$3.00. 277 pages. 

THIS is a book which never 
should have had to be writ- 
ten. But now that it has 
been, one can only honor the wo- 
man who wrote it, for painting one 
of the most terrifyingly real pic- 
tures of an atomic war that science 
fiction has ever produced. 

There are those who will say that 
this is not really science fiction, since 
there is no "new" science in it, arid 
no high-flying adventure — only the 
horrible desperation of ordinary 
people faced with catastrophe. But 
as science fiction matures, it becomes 
more and more obvious that one of 
its important functions is to portray 
just such reactions to events grow- 
ing out of actual or probable scien- 
tific developments. This Judith 
;Merril has done. 

Briefly, the story tells what hap- 
pens to a suburban housewife and 
her family when New York City is 
atom bombed. Little that is "big- 



scale" occurs in the safe, smug com- 
munity twenty miles from where the 
bombs fall. Most of the utilities 
eventually fail; schools close; food is 
rationed. There is some radiation 
poisoning, due largely to radioactive 
rain. Evacuees from New York com- 
plicate conditions, bringing in occa- 
sional bands of looters. 

Most of the action takes place 
within the comfortable middle-class 
home of the heroine. The unimag- 
inable terror of an atomic war is 
brought intimately close through 
impersonal radio announcements, 
official voices on the telephone (un- 
til it breaks down) a handful of 
actual contacts with the outer world 
at the front door and in the house, 
and — most vividly of all — the chil- 
dren's own reactions to the unprece- 
dented new conditions. Through 
their eyes and those of their mother, 

one sees civilization waver and dis- 

* 

solve in a general, brutal chaos. 

Both as an overwhelming argu- 
ment for peace and a masterly ex- 
ample of sensitive and perceptive 
story- telling, unadorned by high- 



• • • • • SHELF 



141 



pressure writing or hysterics, 
Shadow on the Hearth is unreserv- 
edly recommended to everyone who 
is able to enjoy science fiction above 
the level of space operas. 

THE RAT RACE, by Jay Franklin. 

Fantasy Publishing Company, 
$3.00. 371 pages. 

THERE have been incredible 
pieces of pseudo-science fan- 
tasy in the past, and there will be 
more. But this book really should 
take a pri2e. 

The "science" in it is Conan 
Doyle stuff: mere personality trans- 
fer from one body to another under 
the impact of an atomic explosion. 
But consider the story built around 
this simple little idea! Jay Franklin 
is well known as political commen- 
tator, biographer of Fiorello La- 
Guardia, and general insider-about- 
Washington. He wrote this story in 
•1947, and sold it to Collier's as a 
serial. All the events in it are sup- 
posed to have taken place before the 
end of the war — and consequently 
The Rat Race is, in essence, a try at 
rewriting the history of the war's 
last year from the "insider's" point 
of view. Here are some of the "re- 
writings" that crop up in the story: 

A thorium bomb was developed 
by the Navy for only $50,000,000 
while the Manhattan project was 
spending billions on uranium. The 
Navy's one- thorium bomb was sab- 
otaged aboard the U. S. S. Alaska, 
mythical battleship carrying the 



bomb to reduce Japan. In this ex- 
plosion the hero's personality is 
transferred from the battleship to 
the body of a fat, lecherous stock- 
broker in Manhattan — 'but let that 
part of the story go. It isn't impor- 
tant. 

President Roosevelt • was mur- 
dered. Not by the enemy, Germany; 
not by the Russians, either; but by 
a "friendly nation" who wanted to 
keep him from spoiling the rich tak- 
ings at the peace table with his 
idealism. Turns out Wood row Wil- 
son was crippled by the same kind 
of drugs for the same reason, too. 

All the important security agencies 
in Washington agreed to permit 
Hitler's chief spy in the United 
States to remain at large, pursuing 
his usual activities with their assist- 
ance because it was important to 
Big Business and Government to 
have an open line through to Hitler 
for preservation of top-level con- 
tacts. 

The Secret Service has an uncom- 
fortable habit of incarcerating any- 
one it wants out of the way in Saint 
Elizabeth's, Washington, D. C.'s 
huge psychiatric hospital, if it can- 
not get any evidence against such 
people. 

The hero passes himself off as a 
member of a mythical intelligence 
unit called "Z-2". This non-existent 
unit had an agent "in the Jap squad- 
ron that attacked Pearl Harbor and 
one of our men was military secre- 
tary to Rommel in North Africa." 
In the end, however, although the 



142 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



. 






hero had just thought up "Z-2", it 
turns out to have been real! 

It is finally found that the soul 
of the man whose body the hero is 
occupying passed - into the body of 
Ponto, a dog — an idea used previous- 
ly in a famous story, "A Matter of 
Form," by the editor of this maga- 
zine, which interested readers will 
find in The Big Book of Science 
Fiction,' Groff Conklin, editor, 
Crown Publishers Inc., $3.00 
(advt.) And the end of the book is 
the most incredible thing of all— 
for the hero who tells the story in 
the first person casually kills him- 
self off without ever giving himself 
a chance to write it down! 

If this is science fiction, then I 
am definitely a three-eyed man from 
Mars. (Photograph sent on receipt 
of $1.00.) However, it is fascinating 
reading, and for those who like to 
believe the worst, it can be consid- 
ered the expose to end all exposes. 
Certainly , Franklin wanted ,to have 
his readers haunted by the idea that 
some of what he was writing was 
actually true. Maybe it was and just 
doesn't sound it. 

BEYOND TIME AND SPACE, 
edited by August Derleth. Pelle- 
grini & Cudahy, $4.50. 643 pages. 

FLIGHT INTO SPACE, edited by 
Donald A. Wollheim. Frederick 
Fell, $2.75. 251 pages. 

THE BIG BOOK OF SCIENCE 
FICTION, edited by Groff Conk- 
lin. Crown Publishers, Inc., $3.0Q. 
350,000 words. 



THREE new anthologies which 
embarrass your reviewer no end 
to discuss. On the first two the great 
question is whether to be as critical 
as one thinks one should be, or to 
lay off because, as a competing an- 
thologist, one might be thought to 
be tearing down the opposition. And 
on the last one — what to say at all? 
Well. . . . 

Mr. Derleth performs a big favor 
for science fiction lovers by bringing 
together, in the first half of the 
book, some of the great classics of 
the past, from Plato on Atlantis to 
Frank Stockton's "A Tale of Nega- 
tive Gravity," and Johannes Kep- 
ler's "Somnium" to Grant Allen's 
fine "Pausodyne." 

When we come to the secoiid half, 
the stories by current writers, my 
own personal tastes begin to inter- 
fere violently, and I drop criticism 
only to remark that it does contain 
good stories by Heard, Leiber and 
Sturgeon. Of the others, they seem 
to me much less science fiction than 
tales of the weird, the supernatural 
or the fantastic. Many of these 
stories will, I am sure, please many 
people, but I do not think they rep- 
resent modern science fiction. 

As regards Flight Into Space, my 
task is even more -difficult. Here the 
stories certainly are science fiction — 
but science fiction on a level which 
is so different from what one hopes 
to find modern writers doin 1 ^ that 
there is no basis for critical evalua- 
tion. Robert Abernathy's spritely 
"Peril of the Blue World,"" which 



• • • • • SHELF 



143 



shows how scientific machinery can 
delude the most advanced scientists 
when faced with superstition, is one 
excellent tale. It is also a pleasure 
to have Clare Winger Harris' and 
Miles J. Breuer's "A- Baby on JMep- 
tune," a classic from the early days 
of Amazing Stories. 

The book contains twelve stories, 
one for each planet, the sun, the 
moon and the asteroids. It is 'prob- 
ably a must for collectors, but for 
the "lay reader," so-called, turning 
from the slick and beautifully ma- 
chined realism of the modern . de- 
tective story to science fiction for a 
new kind of relaxation, I fear that 
most of the tales in this book are 
too implausible, too portentous, and, 
frankly, too badly written for easy 
acceptance. They are on the juvenile 
level; the- really adult audience which 
science fiction needs deserves a bet- 
ter selection of stories about the 
solar system than this one. 

As for *he third and most re- 
cently published anthology on the 
list, all your reviewer will say at 
this point is that it contains 32 
stories, runs to roughly 350,000 
words, and sells for a bargain-base- 
ment price. It attempts to cover the 
field of modern science fiction from 
Karel Capek's R. U. R. down to 
some of the newest writers such as 
Kutherine MacLean and Peter 



r 

Phillips, Damon Knight and Noel 
Loomis. Not every story is a master- 
piece; not every one is a gem of fine 
writing. But all were selected to be 
read by a mature person without in- 
sulting his taste or intelligence. 

SEVEN SCIENCE FICTION NOV- 
ELS OF H. G. WELLS. Dover 

Publications, $3-95. 1015 pages. 

• 

HERE is wonderful news for 
science (fiction fans of; all 
schools. The huge omnibus volume 
of H. G. Wells', scientific romances 
has been reissued at a price anyone 
can afford. People who have long 
wanted to reread these out-of-print 
classics, and the younger generation 
which has never had a chance to 
read them at all, may now do so. 
The book contains The Time Ma- 
chine, The Island of Dr. Moreau, 
The Invisible Man, The War of the 
Worlds, The First Men in the Moon, 
The Food of the Gods, and In the 
Days of the Comet. Men Like Gods 
is not included, but Dover hopes to 
bring it out separately in the not 
too distant future, and also hopes 
(cheers!) to reissue Wells' one- vol- 
ume collected short stories. We will 
keep you posted on the future re- 
print plans of this publisher, one of 
the most recent in the field of regu- 
lar trade houses to take up science 
fiction. — GROFF CONKLIN 



•44 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



The Last Martian 



The worries of a drunk are strange indeed. 
This one feared his people were all dead 
on another world. Silly, of course* Only 



• • • 



By FREDRIC BROWN 



IT WAS an evening like any 
evening, but duller than most. I 
was back in the city room after 
covering a boring banquet, at which 
the food had been so poor that, even 
though it had cost me nothing, I'd 
felt cheated. For the hell of it, I 
was writing a long and glowing ac- 
count of it, ten or twelve column 
inches. The copyreader, of course, 
would cut it to a passionless para- 
graph or two. 

Slepper was sitting with his feet 
up on the desk, ostentatiously doing 
nothing, and Johnny Hale -was put- 
ting a new ribbon on his typewriter. 
The rest of the boys were out on 
routine assignments. 

Cargan, the city ed, came out of 
his private office and walked over 
to us. 

"Any of you guys know Barney 
Welch?" he asked us. 

A silly question. Barney runs Bar- 
ney's Bar right across the street from 
the Trib. There isn't a Trib reporter 
who doesn't know Barney well 
enough to borrow money from him. 
So we all nodded. 

"He just phoned," Cargan said. 



"He's got a guy down there who 
claims to be from Mars." 

"Drunk or crazy, which?" Slep- 
per wanted to know. 

"Barney doesn't know, but he said 
there might be a gag story in it if 
we want to come over and talk to 
the guy. Since it's" right across the 
street and since you three mugs are 
just sitting on your prats, anyway, 
one of you dash over. But no drinks 
on the expense account." 

Slepper said, "I'll go," but Car- 
gan's eyes had lighted on me. "You 
free, Bill?" he asked. "This has got 
to be a funny story, if any, and you 
got a light touch on the human in- 
terest stuff." 

"Sure," I grumbled. "I'll go." 

"Maybe it's just some drunk being 
funny, but if the guy's really insane, 
phone for a cop, unless you think 
you can get a gag story. If there's an 
arrest,, you got something to hang a 
straight story on." 

Slepper said, "Cargan, you'd get 
your grandmother arrested to get a 
story. Can I go along with Bill, just 
for the ride?" 

"No, you and Johnny stay here. 



THE LAST MARTIAN 



145 



We're not moving the city room' 
across the street to Barney's." Car- 
gan went back into his office. 

I slapped a "thirty" on to end the 
banquet story and sent it down the 
tube. I got my hat and coat. jSlepper 
said, "Have a drink for me, -Bill. 
But don't drink so much you lose 
that light touch." 

I said, "Sure," and went on over 
to the stairway and down. 

I walked into Barney's and looked 
around. Nobody from the Trib was 
there except a couple of pressmen 
playing gin rummy at one of the 
tables. Aside from Barney himself, 
back of the bar, there was only one 
other man in the place. He was a 
tall man, thin and sallow, who was 
sitting by himself in one of the 
booths, staring morosely into an al- 
most empty beer glass. 

I THOUGHT I'd get Barney's 
angle first, so I went up to the 
bar and put down a bill. "A quick 
one," I told him. "Straight, water 
on the side. And is tall-and-dismal 
over there the Martian you phoned 
Cargan about?" 

He nodded once and poured' my 
drink. 

"What's my angle?" I asked him. 
"Does he know' a reporter's going 
to interview him? Or do I just buy 
him a drink and rope him, or what? 
How crazy is he?" 

"You tell me. Says he just got in 
from Mars two hours ago and he's 
trying to figure it out. He says he's 
the last living Martian. He doesn't 



know you're a reporter, but he's all 
set to talk to you. J set it up." 

"How?" 

"Told him I had a friend who 
was smarter than any usual guy and 
could give him good advice on what 
to do. I didn't tell him any name 
because I didn't know who Cargan 
would* send. But he's all ready to cry 
on your shoulder." 

"Know his name?" 

Barney grimaced. "Yangan Dal, 
he says. Listen, don't get him vio- 
lent or anything in here. I don't 
want no trouble." 

I downed my shot and took a sip 

of chaser. I said, "Okay, Barney. 

Look, dish up two beers for us and 

"I'll go over and take 'em with me." 

Barney drew two beers and cut off 
their heads. He rang up sixty cents 
and gave me my change, and I went 
over to the booth with the beers. 

"Mr. Dal?" I said. "My name is 
Bill Everett. Barney tells me you 
have a problem I might help you 
on. 

He looked up at me. "You're the 
one he phoned? Sit down,- Mr. 
Everett. And thanks very much for 
the beer." 

I slid into the booth across from 
him. He took the last sip of his 
previous beer and wrapped nervous 
hands" around the glass I'd just 
bought him. 

"I suppose you'll think I'm crazy," 
he said. "And maybe you'll be right, 
but — I don't understand it myself. 
The bartender thinks I'm crazy, I 
guess. Listen, are you a doctor?" 



146 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



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' 



' 



"Not exactly," I told him. "Call 
me a consulting psychologist." 

"Do you think I'm insane?' 

I said, "Most people who are 
don't admit they might be. But I 
haven't heard your story yet." 

He took a draught of the beer and 
put the glass down again, but kept 
his hands tightly around the glass, 
possibly to keep them from shaking. 

He said, "I'm a Martian. The last 
one. All the others are dead. I saw 
their bodies only two hours ago." 

"You were on Mars only two 
hours ago? How did you get here?" 

"I don't know. That's the hor- 
rible thing. I don't know. All I 
know is that the others were dead, 
their bodies starting to rot. It was 
awful. There were a hundred million 
of us, and now I'm the last one." 

"A hundred million. That's the 
population of Mars?" 

"About that. A little over, maybe. 
But that was the population. They're 
all dead now, except me. I looked 
in three cities, the three biggest 
ones. I was in Skar, and when I 
found all the people dead there, I 
took a targan — there was no one to 
stop me — and flew it to Undanel. 
. I'd never flown one before, but the 
controls were simple. Everyone in 
Undanel was dead, too. I refueled 
and flew on.- 1 flew low and watched 
and there was no one alive. I flew 
to Zandar, - the biggest city — over 
three million people. And all of 
them were dead and starting to rot. 
It was horrible, I tell you. Horrible. 
* I can't get over the shock of it." 



"I can imagine," I said. 

ii ~\TOU can't. Of course it was a 

JL dying world, anyway; we 
didn't have more than another doz- 
en generations left to us, you under- 
stand. Two centuries ago, we num- 
bered three billion — most of them 
starving. It was the kryl, the disease 
that came from the desert wind and 
that our scientists couldn't cure. In 
two centuries it reduced us to one- 
-thirtieth of our number and it still 
kept on.' , 

"Your people died, then, of this — 
kryl?" 

"No. When a Martian dies of 
kryl, he withers. The corpses I saw 
were not withered." He shuddered 
and drank the rest of his beer. I saw 
that I'd neglected mine and downed 
it. I raised two fingers at Barney, 
who was watching our way and 
looking worried. 

My Martian went on talking. "We 
tried to develop space travel, but 
we couldn't. We thought some of 
us might escape the kryl, if we came 
to Earth or to other worlds. We 
tried, but we failed. We couldn't 
even get to Deimos or Phobos, our 
moons." 

"You didn't develop space travel? 
Then how — " 

"I don't know. / don't know, and 
I tell you it's driving me wild. I 
don't know how I got here. I'm 
Yangan Dal, a Martian. And I'm 
here., in this body. It's driving me 
wild, I tell you."' 

Barney came with the beers. He 



THE LAST MARTIAN 



147 



looked worried enough, so I waited 
until he was out of hearing before 
I asked, "In this body? "Do vou 
mean — " 

"Of course. This isn't I, this body 
I'm in. You don't think Martians 
would look exactly like humans, do 
you? I'm three feet tall, weigh what 
would be about, twenty pounds here 
on Earth. I have four arms with six- 
fingered hands. This body I'm in — 
it frightens me. I don't understand 
it, any more than I know how I got 
here." 

"Or how you happen to talk Eng- 
lish? Or can you account for that?" 

"Well — in a way I can. This 
body; its name is Howard Wilcox. 
It's a bookkeeper. It's married to a 
female of this species. It works at a 
place called the Humbert Lamp 
Company. I've got all its memories 
and I can do everything it could do; 
I know everything it knew, or 
knows. In a sense, I am Howard 
Wilcox. I've got stuff in my pockets 
to prove it. But it doesn't make 
sense, because I'm Yangan Dal, and 
I'm a Martian. I've even got this 
body's tastes. I like beer. And if I 
think about this body's wife, I — 
well, I love her." 

I stared at him and pulled out my 
cigarettes, held out the package to 
hkn. "Smoke?" 

"This body— Howard Wilcox— 
doesn't smoke. Thanks, though. And 
let me buy us another round of 
beers. There's money in these 
pockets." 

I signaled Barney. 



"When did this happen? You say 
only two hours ago? Did you ever 
suspect before- then that you were a 
Martian ?" 

"Suspect? I was a Martian What 
time is it?" 

I looked at Barney's clock. "A 
little after nine." 

"Then it's a little longer than I 
thought. Three and a half hours. It 
would have been half past five when 
I found myself in this body, because 
it was going home from work then, 
and from its memories I know it had 
left work half an hour before then, 
at five." 

"And did you — it — go home?" 

"No, I was too confused. It 
wasn't my home. I'm a Martian. 
Don't you understand that? Well, I 
don't blame you if you don't, because 
I don't, either. But I walked. And 
I — I mean Howard Wilcox — got 
thirsty and he — I — " He stopped 
and started over again. "This body 
got thirsty and I stopped in here for 
a drink. After two or three beers, I 
thought maybe the bartender there 
could give me some advice and I 
started talking to him." 

I LEANED forward across the 
table. "Listen, Howard," I said, 
"you were due home for dinner. 
You're making your wife worry like 
anything about you unless you 
phoned her. Did you?" 

"Did I — Of course not. I'm not 
Howard Wilcox." But a new type 
of worry came into his face. 

"You'd better phone her," I said. 



148 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 






r 



■ 



v 



"What's there to lose? Whether you 
are Yangan Dal or Howard Wilcox, 
there's a woman sitting home worry- 
ing about you or him. Be kind 
enough to phone her. Do you know 
the number?" 

"Of course. It's my own — I mean 
it's Howard Wilcox's—" 

"Quit tying yourself into gram- 
matical knots and go make that 
phone call. Don't worry about think- 
ing up a story yet; you're too con- 
fused. Just tell her you'll explain 
when you get home, but that you're 
all right." 

He got up like a man in a daze 
and headed for the phone booth. 

I went over to the bar and had 
another quickie, straight. 

Barney said, "Is he — uh — " 

"I don't know yet," I said. 
"There's something about it I still 
don't get." 

IGOT'back to the booth. 
He was grinning weakly. He 
said, "She sounded madder than hop- 
toads. If I — if Howard Wilcox does 
go home, his story had better be 
good." He took a gulp of beer. 
"Better than Yangan Dai's story, 
anyway." He was getting more hu- 
. man by the moment. 

But then he was back into it again. 
He stared at me. "I maybe should 
have told you how it happened from 
the beginning. I was shut up in a 
room on Mars. In the city of Skar. 
I don't know why they put me 
there, but they did. I was ldtked in. 
And then for a long time they 



didn't bring me food, and I got so 
hungry that I worked a stone loose 
from the floor and started to scrape 
my way ' through fthe door. I was 
starving. It took me three days — 
Martian days, about six Earth days 
— to get through, and I staggered 
around until I found the food quar- 
ters of the building I was in. There 
was no one there and I ate. And 
then—" • 
. "Go on," I said. "I'm listening." 

"I went out of the building and 
everyone was lying in the open, in 
the streets, dead. Rotting." He put' 
his hands over his eyes. "I looked 
in some houses, other buildings. I 
don't know why or what I was look- 
ing for, but nobody had died in- 
doors. Everybody was lying dead in 
the open, and none of the bodies 
were withered, so it wasn't kryl that 
killed them. 

"Then, as I told you, I stole the 
targan — or I guess I really didn't 
steal it, because there was no one to 
Steal it from — and flew around look- 
ing for someone alive. Out in the 
country it was the same way — every- 
body lying in the open, near the 
houses, dead. And Undanel and 
Zandar, the same. , 

"Did I tell you Zandar's the big- 
gest city, the capital? In the middle 
of Zandar there's a big open space, 
the Games Field, that's more than 
an Earth-mile square. And all the 
people in Zandar were there, or it 
looked like all. Three million bodies, 
all lying together, like they'd gath- 
ered there to die, out in the open. 



THE LAST MARTIAN 



149 



' . 






- 



< 



■ 



* 



. •-. • 






Like they'd known. Like everyone, 
everywhere else, was out in the 
open, but here they were all to- 
gether, the whole three million of 
them. 

"I saw it from the air, as I flew 
over the city. And there was some- 
thing in the middle of the field, on 
a platform. I went down and hov- 
ered the targan — it's a little 
like your helicopters, I forgot 
to mention — I hovered over the 
platform to see what was there. It 
was some kind of a column made of 
solid copper. Copper on Mars is 
like gold is on Earth. There was a 
push-button set with precious stones 
set in the column. And a Martian 
in a blue robe lay dead at the foot 
of the column, right under the but- 
ton. As though he'd pushed it — and 
then died. And everybody else had 
died, too, with him. Everybody on 
Mars, except me. 

"And I lowered the targan onto 
•the platform and got out and I 
pushed the button. I wanted to die, 
too; everybody else was dead and I 
wanted to die, too. But I didn't. 1 
■was riding on a streetcar on Earth, 
on my way home from work, and 
my name was — " 

I signaled Barney. 

"Listen, Howard," I said. "We'll 
have one more beer and then you'd 
better get home to your wife. 
You'll catch hell from her, even 
now, and the longer you wait, the 
worse it'll be. And if you're smart, 
you'll take some candy or flowers 
along and think up a really good 



story on the way home. And not the 
one you. just told me." 

He said, "Well—" 

I said, "Well me no wells. Your 
name is Howard Wilcox and you'd 
better get home to your wife. I'll 
tell you what may have happened. 
We know little about the human 
mind, and many strange things hap- 
pen to it. Maybe the medieval people 
had something when they believed 
in possession. Do you want to know 
what I think happened to you?" 

"What? For Heaven's sake, if you 
can give me any explanation— ex- 
cept tell me that I'm crazy — " 

"I think. „you can drive yourself 
batty if you let yourself think about 
it, Howard. Assume there's some 
natural explanation and then forget 
it. I can make a random guess what 
may have happened." 

BARNEY came with the beers and 
I waited until he'd gone back 
to the bar. 

I said, "Howard, just possibly a 
man — I mean a Martian — named 
Yangan Dal did die this afternoon 
on Mars. Maybe he really was the 
last Martian. And maybe, somehow, 
his mind got mixed up with yours 
at the moment of his death. I'm not 
saying that's what happened, but it 
isn't impossible to believe. Assume 
it was that, Howard, and fight it 
off. Just act as though you are How- 
ard Wilcox — and look in a mirror if 
you doubt it. Go home and square 
things- with your wife, and then go 
to work tomorrow morning and for- 






150 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 


















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V 



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get it. Don't you think that's the 
best idea?" . 

"Well, maybe you're right. The 
evidence of my senses — " 

/'Accept it. Until and unless you 
get better evidence." 

We finished off our beers and T 
put him into a taxi. I reminded him 
to stop for candy or flowers and to 
work up a good and reasonable alibi, 
instead of thinking about what he'd 
been telling me. 

I WENT back upstairs in the Trib 
building and into Cargan's office 
and closed the door behind me. 

I said, "It's all right, Cargan. I 
straightened him out." 

"What had happened?" 

"He's a Martian, all right. And 
he was the last Martian left on 
Mars. Only he didn't know we'd 
come here; he thought we were all 
dead." 

"But how — How could he have 
been overlooked? How could he not 
have known?" 

I said, "He's an imbecile. He was 
in a mental institution in Skar and 
-somebody slipped up and left him 
in his room when the button was 
pushed that sent us here. He wasn't 
out in the open, so he didn't get the 
mentaport rays that carried our 
psyches across space. He escaped 
from his room and found the platr 
form in Zandar, where the ceremony 
was, and pushed the button himself. 
There must have been enough juice 
left to send him after us." 

Cargan whistled softly. "Did you 



* 

tell him the truth? And is he smart 
enough to keep his trap shut?" 
- I shook my head. "No, to botih 
questions. His I. Q. is about fifteen, 
at a guess. But that's as smart as 
. the average Earthman, so he'll get by 
here all right. I convinced him he 
really was the Earthman his psyche 
happened to get into." 

"Lucky thing he went into Bar- - 
ney's. I'll phone Barney in a minute 
and let him know it's taken care of. 
I'm surprised he didn't gWe the guy 
a mickey before he phoned us." 

I said, "Barney's one of us. He 
wouldn't have let the guy get out 
of there. He'd have held him till we • 
got there." 

"But you let him go. Are you sure 
it's safe? Shouldn't you have — " 

"He'll be all right," I said. "I'll 
assume responsibility to keep an eye 
on him until we take over. I suppose 
we'll have to institutionalize . him 
again after that. But I'm glad I 
didn't have to kill him. After all, 
he is one of us, imbecile or not. And 
he'll probably be so glad to learn 
he isn't the last Martian that he 
won't mind having to return to an 
asylum." 

I went back into the city room 
and to my desk. Slepper was gone, 
sent out somewhere, on something. 
Johnny Hale looked up from the 
magazine he was reading. "Get a 
story?" he asked. 

"Nah," I said. "Just a drunk be- 
ing the life of the party. I'm sur- 
prised at Barney for calling." 

— FREDRIC BROWN 



THE LAST MARTIAN 



1S1 



By 
ISAAC ASIMOV 




Darwinian Pool Room 

Creation's meaning is an awesome secret. Or maybe not. 







i i S~*\ F COURSE the ordinary 

conception of Genesis I is 

all wrong," I said. "Take 

a pool room, for instance." 

The other three mentally took a 
pool room. We were sitting }n 
broken down swivel-Chairs in Dr. 
Trotter's laboratory, but it was no 
trick at all for them to convert the 
lab benches into pool tables, the tall 
ring-stands into cues, the reagent 
bottles into billiard balls and then 
wait for me to do something with 
the imaginary layout. 

Thetier even raised one finger, 



closed his eyes and muttered softly. 
"Pool room!" Trotter, as usual, said 
• nothing at all, but nursed his second 
cup of coffee. The coffee, also as 
usual, was horrible, but then I was 
the newcomer to the group and had 
not jet calloused my gastric 'lining. 

"Now consider the end of a game 
of pocket pool," I said. "You've got 
each ball, except the cue-ball, of 
course, in a given pocket — " 

"Wait a while," said Thetier, al- 
ways the purist. "It doesn't matter 
which pocket." 

"Beside the point. When the 



152 



GAl^VXY SCIENCE FICTION 



i 



s 









■ 



f 






' - • 

game is over, the balls are in various 
pockets. Right? Now suppose you 
walk into the pool room when the 
game is alLover, and observe only 
that final position and try to recon- 
struct the course of previous events. 
You have several alternatives. 

"Not if you know the rules of 
the game," said Madend. 

"Assume complete ignorance," I 
said. "You can decide that the balls 
were pocketed by being struck with 
the cue-ball, which in turn was 
struck by the cue. This would be 
the truth, but not an explanation 
that is . very likely to occur to you 
spontaneously. It is much more like- 
ly that you would decide' that the 
balls were individually placed in 
their corresponding pockets by 
hand, or always existed in the pock- 
ets as you found them." » 

"All right," said Thetier, "if 
you're going to skip back to Genesis, 
you will claim that by analogy we 
can account for the universe as either 
having always existed, having been 
created arbitrarily as it is now, or 
having developed through evolu- 
tion. So what?" 

"That's not the alternative I'm 
proposing at all," I said. "Let us 
accept the idea of creation for a 
purpose, and consider only the 
methods by which such a creation 
could have been accomplished. It's 
easy to suppose that God said, 'Let 
there be light,' and there was light, 
but it's not esthetic." 

"It's simple," said Madend, "and 
'Occam's Razor' demands that of 






alternate possibilities, the simpler be 
chosen." 

"Then why don't you play pool 
by putting the balls in the pockets 
by hand? That's simpler, too, but 
it isn't the game. Now if you start- 
ed with the primordial atom — " 

"What is that?" asked Trotter 
craftily. 

"Well, call it all the mass-energy 
of the universe compressed into a 
single sphere, in a state of minimum 
entropy — completely at rest, motion- 
less. Now explode that in such a 
way that all the constituent particles 
of matter and quanta of energy act, 
react and interact in a pre-calculated 
way, so that just our present uni- 
verse ' is created. Wouldn't that be 
much more satisfactory than simply 
waving your hand and saying, 'Let 
there be light'?" 

"■yOU mean," said Madend, 

JL "like stroking the cue-ball 
against one of the billiard-balls and 
sending all fifteen into their pre- 
destined pockets?" 

"In an esthetic pattern," I said. 

"There's more poetry in the 
thought of a huge act of direct 
will," said Madend. 

"That depends on whether you 
look at the matter as a mathemati- 
cian or a theologian," I said. "As a 
matter of fact, Genesis I could be 
made to fit the billiard-ball scheme. 
The Creator could have spent His 
time calculating all the necessary 
variables and relationships into six 
gigantic equations. Count one 'day' 



DARWINIAN POOL ROOM 



153 



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for each equation. After having ap- 
plied the initial explosive impetus, 
He would then 'rest' on the seventh 
'day', said seventh 'day' being the 
entire interval of time from that be- 
ginning to 4,004 B.C. That interval, 
in which the infinitely complex pat- 
tern of billiard balls is sorting itself 
out, is obviously of no interest to 
the writers of the Bible. All two 
billion years of it could be consid- 
ered merely the developing single 
act of creation." 

"You're postulating a teleological 
universe," said Trotter, "one in 
which purpose is implied." 

"Sure," I said. "Why not? A con- 
scious act of creation without a pur- 
pose is ridiculous. Besides which, if 
you try to consider the course of 
evolution as the blind outcome of 
non-purposive forces, you end up 
with some very puzzling problems." 

"AS FOR instance?" asked Mad- ' 
J\ end. 

"As for instance," I said, "the 
passing away of the dinosaurs." 

"What's so' hard to understand 
about that?" 

"There's no logical reason for it. 
Try to name seme." 

"Law of diminishing returns," 
said Madend. "The brontosaurus 
got so massive, it took legs like tree- 
trunks to support him, and at that 
he had to stand in water and let 
buoyancy do most of the work. And 
He had to eat all the time to keep 
himself supplied with calories. I 
mean all the time. As for the carni- 



154 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



vores, they afflicted such armor upon 
themselves in their race against one 
another, offensive and defensive, 
that they were just crawling tanks, 
puffing under tons of bone and scale. 
It got to the point where it just 
didn't pay off." 

"Okay," I said, "so the big babies 
die off. But most of the dinosaurs 
were little running creatures whose 
mass and armor had not become ex- 
cessive. What happened to them?" 

"As far as the small ones are con- 
cerned," put in Thetier, "there's the 
question of competition. If some of 
the reptiles developed hair and warm 
blood, they could adapt themselves 
to variations in climate more effi- 
ciently. They wouldn't have to stay 
out of direct sunlight. They would 
not get sluggish as soon as the tem- 
perature dropped below eighty Fahr- 
enheit. They would develop intelli- 
gence of a sort. Therefore, they 
would win the race for food." 

"That doesn't satisfy me," I said. 
"In the first place, I don't think the 
various saurians were quite such 
pushovers. They held out for some 
three hundred million years, you 
know, which is 299 million more 
than genus Homo. Secondly, cold- 
blooded animals still survive, notably 
insects and amphibia — " 

"High rate of reproduction," said 
Thetier. 

"And plenty of reptiles. The 
snakes, lizards, and turtles are still 
very much in business. For that mat- 
ter, what about the ocean? The saur- 
ians adapted to that in the shape of 



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ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. They 
vanished, too, and there were no 
newly developed forms of life based 
on radical evolutionary advances to 
compete with them. As near as I can 
make out, the highest form of ocean 
life are the fish — mammals aside — 
and they came before the ichthyo- 
saurs. How do you account for that? 
The fish are just as cold-blooded and 
even more primitive. And in the 
ocean, there's no question of mass 
and diminishing returns since the 
water does all the work of support. 
The sulfur-bottom whale is larger 
than any dinosaur that ever lived. 
Another thing. What's the use of 
talking about the inefficiency of cold 
blood and saying that, at tempera- 
tures below 80, cold-blooded animals 
become sluggish? Fish are very 
happy at continuous temperatures of 
about 35, and there is nothing slug- 
gish about a shark/' 

"FT! HEN why did the dinosaurs 

-L quietly steal off the Earth, 
leaving their bones behind?" asked 
Madend. 

"They were part of the plan. Once 
they had served their purpose, they 
were gotten rid of." 

"How? In a properly arranged 
Velikovskian catastrophe? A strik- 
ing comet? The finger of God?" 

"No, of course not. They died out 
naturally and of necessity according 
to the Original pre-calculation." 

"Then we ought to be able to 
find out what that natural, necessary 
cause of extinction was." 



156 



GALAXY SCIENCE FICTION 



"Not necessarily. It might have 
been some obscure failure of the 
saurian biochemistry, deliberately 
provided for, some developing vita- 
min deficiency — " 

"It's too complicated," said The- 
tier. 

"It just seems complicated," I 
maintained. "Supposing it were nec- 
essary to pocket a given billiard-ball 
by making a four-cushion shot. 
Would you quibble at the compli- 
cated course of the cue-ball? A di- 
rect hit would be less complicated, 
but would accomplish nothing. And 
despite the apparent complication, 
the stroke would be no more diffi- 
cult to the master. It would still be. 
a single motion of the cue, merely 
in a different direction. The ordinary 
properties of elastic materials and 
the laws of conservation .of mo- 
mentum would then take over." 
- "I take it then," said Trotter, 
"that you suggest that the course of 
evolution represents the Simplest 
way in which one could have pro- 
gressed from original chaos to man." 

"That's right. Not a'sparrow falls 
without a purpose, and not a ptero- 
dactyl, either." 

"And where do we go from 
here?" 

"Nowhere. Evolution is finished 
with the development of man. The 
old rules don't apply any more." 

"Oh, don't they?" said Madend. 
"You rule out the continuing occur- 
rence of environmental variation and 
of mutations?" 

"In a sense, I do," I insisted. 



' "More and more, man is controlling 
his environment, and more and 
more he is understanding the mech- 
anism of mutations. Before man 
appeared on the scene, creatures 
could neither foresee and guard 
themselves against shifts in climatic 
conditions, nor could they under- 
stand the increasing danger from 
newly developing species before the 
danger had become overwhelming. 
But now ask yourself this question: 
What species of organism can pos- 
sibly replace us and how 'is it going 
to accomplish the task?" 

"We can start off," said Madend, 
"by considering the insects. I think 
they're doing the job already." 

"fflHEY haven't prevented us 
-L from increasing in population 
about ten-fold in the last two hun- 
dred and fifty years. If man were 
ever to concentrate on the struggle 
with the insects, instead of spend- 
ing most of his spare effort on other 
types of fighting, said insects would, 
not last long. We could clean them 
off the planet." 

- "What about bacteria, or, better 
still, viruses?" asked Madend. "The 
influenza virus of 1918 did a re- 
spectable job of getting rid of a siz- 
able percentage of us." 

"Sure," I said, "just about one 
per cent. Even the Black Death of 
the 14th Century only managed to 
kill one-third of the population of 
Europe, and that at a time when 
medical science was non-existent. It 
was allowed to run its course at 



DARWINIAN POOL ROOM 



157 



will, under the most appalling con- 
ditions of medieval poverty, filth- and 
squalor, and still two-thirds of our 
very tough species managed to sur- 
vive. Disease can't do it." 

"What about man himself devel- 
oping into a sort of superman and 
displacing the old-timers?" sug- 
gested Thetier. 

"Not' likely," I said. "The only 
part of the human being which is 
worth anything, as far as being boss 
of the world is concerned, is his 
nervous system; the cerebral hem- 
ispheres of the brain, in particular. 
They are the most speciali2ed part 
of his organism and therefore a 
dead end. If there is anything the 
course of evolution demonstrates, it 
is that, once a certain degree of 



specialization sets in, flexibility ts 
lost. Further development can pro- 
ceed only in greater specialization." 

"Isn't that exactly what's want- 
ed?" said Thetier. 

"Maybe it is, but as Madend 
pointed out, specializations ' have a 
way of reaching a point of dimin- 
ishing returns. It's the size of the 
human head at birth that makes the 
process difficult and painful. It's the 
complexity of the human mentality 
that makes mental and emotional 
maturity lag so far behind sexual 
maturity in man, with its conse- 
quent harvest of troubles. It's the 
delicacy of mental equipment that 
makes most or all of the race neu- 
rotic. How much further can we go 
without complete disaster?"- 



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"fpHE development," said Mad- 

X end, "might be in greater sta- 
bility, or quicker maturity, rather 
than higher brain-power." 

"Maybe, but there are no signs 
of it. Cro-Magnon man existed ten 
thousand years ago, and there are 
indications that modern man is -bis 
inferior, if anything, in brain-power. 
And in physique, too." 

"Ten thousand years," said Trot- 
ter, "isn't much, evolutionarily 
speaking. Besides, there is always the 
possibility of other species of ani- 
mals developing intelligence, or 
something better — and don't say 
there couldn't be anything better." 

"We'd never let them. That's the 
point. It would take hundreds of 
thousands of years for, let us say, 
apes or insects to become intelligent, 



and we'd wipe them out — or else use 
them as slaves." 

"All right," said Thetier. "What 
about obscure biochemical deficien- 
cies, such as you insisted on in the 
case of the dinosaurs? Take Vitamin 
C, for instance. The only organisms 
that can't make their own are 
guinea-pigs and primates, including 
man. Suppose this trend continues 
and we become impossibly depend- 
ent on too many essential food fac- 
tors. Or what if the apparent 
increase in the susceptibility of man 
to cancer continues?" Then what will 
happen?" 

"That's no problem," I said. "It's 
the essence of the new situation, that 
we are producing all known food- 
factors artificially, and may eventual- 
ly have a completely synthetic diet. 



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DARWINIAN POOL ROOM 



159 



And there's no reason to think we 
won't learn how to prevent or cure 
cancer some day." 

Trotter got up. He had finished 
his coffee, but was still nursing his 
cup.- "All right, then, you say we've 
bit a dead end. But what if all this 
has been taken into the original ac- 
count? The Creator was prepared to 
spend three hundred million years 
letting the dinosaurs develop some- 
thing or other that would eventually 
result in mankind — or so you say. 
Why can't He have figured out a 
way in which man could use his 
intelligence and his control of the 
environment to prepare the next 
stage of the game? That might be 
a very tricky part of the pool game.'" 

That stopped me. "How do you 
mean ?" 

> 

Trotter smiled at me. "Oh, I was 
just thinking that it might not be 
entirely coincidence, and that a new 
race may be coming and an old one 
going, entirely through the efforts 
of this cerebral mechanism." He 
tapped his temple. 

"In what way?" 

"Stop me if I'm wrong, but 
aren't the sciences of nucleonics and 
cybernetics reaching simultaneous 
peaks? Aren't we inventing hydro- 
gen bombs and thinking machines 
at the same time? Is that coincidence 
— or part of the divine purpose?" 

That was about all for that lunch 
hour. It; had begun as logic-chop- 
ping just to kill time, but since then 
— 'I've been wondering. 

—ISAAC ASIMOV 



■ 



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YOU'LL NEVER SEE IT 




IN GALAXY 




Jets blasting, Bat Durston came 
screeching down through the atmosphere 
of Bbllzznaj, a tiny planet seven billion 
light years from Sol. He cut out his 
super-hyper-drive for the landing... and 
at that point, a tall, lean spaceman 
stepped out of the tail assembly, protom 
gun-blaster in a space-tanned hand. 

"Get back from those controls, Bat 
Durston," the tall stranger lipped thinly. 
"You don't know it, but this is your last 
space trip." 



Hoofs drumming, Bat Durston came 
galloping down through the narrow 
pass at Eagle Gulch, a tiny gold colony 
4Q0 miles north of Tombstone. He 
spurred hard for a low overhang of rim- 
rock ...an d at that point a tall, lean 
wrangler stepped out from behind a 
high boulder, six-shooter in a sun- 
tanned hand. 

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"You don't know it, but this is your last 
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